Gardening tips 2

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With many of us spending more time at home, getting some fresh air and keeping our minds occupied in the current situation is so important.

So switch off from the news and take a break in your garden. Gardening is a great stress buster and it’s a good form of exercise too. 

If you’re looking for ideas there are plenty of uplifting projects to get stuck into in your garden. Why not:

> Plant a tree

Grow your own fruit & veg

Create a wildlife-friendly garden

Plant patio climbing roses

Try growing some plants from seed

Get the children into gardening

Create an edible window box

Sarah Squire, Chairman of Squire’s Garden Centres believes escaping into the garden is a great way to lift your spirits to soak in the beauty if the outdoors generally and our gardens.

She said: “In times like this nature and simple pleasures, like gardening, watching the birds and looking out for wildlife, seem all the more precious and a boost to body and spirit. If you need us we are here to help you get gardening and find some outdoor relaxation and exercise.”

She added: “If you are spending a little more time at home over the coming weeks, I hope that the weather is kind and you are able to enjoy your outside space.”

Squire’s also offer a local home delivery service. Simply call your local centre to arrange delivery. Squires Garden Centres

Spring Clean

If this gets you in the tidying spirit – why not try our Spring Cleaning ideas? Broken down into five easy days!

Gardening tips 1

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While having to stay at home is not ideal for any of us there are lots of things you can do in the garden and what better time than with the spring weather, here are a few more ideas, that will not only keep you occupied, but also mentally and physically active too:

> Dust down the mower and get out and tackle the lawn, not forgetting the edges which you can trim with shears. This simple task will immediately make your garden look tider.

Welcome the birds into your garden, order some feeders and birdfood to get started if you don’t already have them and the sight and sound of our feathered friends will put a smile on your face.

Do your bit for wild plants that are under threat by sowing some native plants into a window box, on a balcony or in a corner of your garden and make a mini meadow to encourage nature back.

Children can join in with nature/gardening-based craft activities to inspire and entertain them to get growing too. Why not make a den in the garden if you have room and see how ingenious they can be.

Don’t stare at a blank wall or fence, add some colour with hanging baskets or try environmentally-friendly, hessian flower bags filled with compost and planted with flowering plugs.

String up some garden lights to bring a sparkle to a tree, porch, archway or shrub.

Don’t neglect the patio or terrace when dealing with the plants, veg and greenery – a blast from the pressure washer will easily give it a new look.

For a real taste of the summer to come order some strawberry plants and get them in now with some fertilizer to really encourage the juicy sweet fruit.

Add some sunshine with some cheery sunflowers, sow seeds now, put pots on the windowsill and plant seedlings when frosts are gone.

Pot up some herbs, salad leaves, spinach, beetroot, dwarf French beans, potatoes and dwarf carrots which will all do well in containers or skip the sowing and go straight to plug plants.

Spring Clean

If this gets you in the tidying spirit – why not try our Spring Cleaning ideas? Broken down into five easy days!

Spring clean: De-clutter

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The Great British Spring Clean has been postponed until September but while you can’t do your bit for the outside it doesn’t mean you can’t focus on the inside so how about giving your home a spring clean instead?

Be realistic about it, don’t try tackling it all at once – especially if you’ve got other things that need your attention – do it room by room, perhaps even enlist the help of other family members at home with you and make it fun for the children to help out, after all many hands make light work!

Hopefully now you’ve got a clean, tidy, fresh house so the final step is to de-clutter and take care of the little things to complete that new look for spring…

Clutter


Clean makeup brushes

They’ll need 24 hours to dry so make sure you do this when you won’t be using them, just use a brush cleanser or a lightweight unscented shampoo.

Dust

Don’t just clear surfaces and straighten up ornaments, take the time to have a really good dust, bedside table, shelves etc, it will add to the overall improvement of the house.

Clean toys in dishwasher and washing machine

Put plastic things in the dishwasher and fabric in the washing machine. Remember to check what it’s made of first– you don’t want goggly eyes or loose parts falling off in the machine.

And finally… Create a space for clutter

No matter how hard you try there will always be some bits and pieces you can’t get rid off but that don’t have a natural home so create a dedicated space to store these things to ensure all your hard work and newly cleaned and tidied home isn’t spoiled by clutter again.

Spring clean your digital life

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The Great British Spring Clean has been postponed until September but while you can’t do your bit for the outside it doesn’t mean you can’t focus on the inside so how about giving your home a spring clean instead?

Be realistic about it, don’t try tackling it all at once – especially if you’ve got other things that need your attention – do it room by room, perhaps even enlist the help of other family members at home with you and make it fun for the children to help out, after all many hands make light work!

Over the next week, we’ll share advice on all those essential tasks that can help give your house a new lease of life.

It’s not just the ‘physical’ possessions in your life that needed ‘cleaning’, do a digital clear out too… 

Digital


Clean up your desktop

A quick fix to tidy up your screen is to move items into folders, although just a temporary fix, it’ll allow time to sort through files in an orderly way.

Clean keyboards

Keyboards are often neglected but cleaning them is simple – soap, water and a cotton bud will help you get in between keys without a problem.

Unsubscribe and delete unwanted emails

Don’t let unopened emails accumulate in your inbox. You can either search ‘unsubscribe’ in your emails and find the ones you don’t want or for a more thorough job, sort your inbox by “from” and choose the sender you don’t want to hear from.

Spring clean your house

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The Great British Spring Clean has been postponed until September but while you can’t do your bit for the outside it doesn’t mean you can’t focus on the inside so how about giving your home a spring clean instead?

Be realistic about it, don’t try tackling it all at once – especially if you’ve got other things that need your attention – do it room by room, perhaps even enlist the help of other family members at home with you and make it fun for the children to help out, after all many hands make light work!

Over the next week, we’ll share advice on all those essential tasks that can help give your house a new lease of life.

You’ve focused on the key rooms, so how about turning your attention to the house overall?

House


Remove carpet stains with an iron

Vacuum the area, dampen any spots or stains with a towel soaked in a solution of one part vinegar and three parts water. Place the moist towel over the stain and use the iron to heat the towel, it should lift the stain into the towel.

 

Banish bad smells

Open your windows to let in some fresh air. Check your fruit bowl for worst-for-wear fruit and take the bin out. A cup of vanilla extract in the oven to heat for an hour will make your home smell like a bakery. Fresh potted herbs in the kitchen (mint, rosemary and basil) are also a great way to freshen things up.

 

Rearrange furniture

Not only will it feel like you’ve got a new room, it’ll also help you clear away clutter and dirt in the process.

 

Wash the windows

The best time to do this is on a cloudy day as sun dries them out too quickly, causing streaks. Mix equal parts white vinegar and warm water and spritz away, making sure to rub it in quickly and fluidly.

 

Create a donations box

Place a box, bag or bin somewhere handy for unwanted items, drop in one thing per day that you don’t wear or use anymore. It will soon fill up and you can then donate or sell the collection when the box is full.

Spring clean your kitchen

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The Great British Spring Clean has been postponed until September but while you can’t do your bit for the outside it doesn’t mean you can’t focus on the inside so how about giving your home a spring clean instead?

Be realistic about it, don’t try tackling it all at once – especially if you’ve got other things that need your attention – do it room by room, perhaps even enlist the help of other family members at home with you and make it fun for the children to help out, after all many hands make light work!

Over the next week, we’ll share advice on all those essential tasks that can help give your house a new lease of life.

It’s time to tackle probably the most used room in your house which is likely to be the most in need of a spring clean – the kitchen!

Kitchen


Fresh smelling bin

There’s no excuse not to clean your bin when there are so many ways you can do it. Hose the inside and wipe it down with an anti-bacterial spray or wipe to start with, a sprinkling of baking soda will help absorb any moisture. Line the bottom with newspaper before fitting a bin liner and a few drops of tea tree oil will add a pleasantly clean fragrance.

Clean the oven

Sprinkle baking soda over the bottom of the oven, then spray or pour vinegar over it and leave overnight. Simply wipe clean in the morning and you’ve got a sparkly clean oven ready to use.

Sanitize sponges

Hands up who uses just one sponge for everything? It’s a hygiene disaster but there is an answer – microwave a wet sponge on a high setting for a minute or two and this will kill most of the bacteria in the sponge. Don’t keep your sponges for too long – you should use a new one every month or so.

Steam clean the microwave

Microwaves attract dirt from explosions or spillages, but you can clean your microwave the easy way by adding lemon juice or white vinegar to a bowl of water and heating it on full power for about five minutes. Wipe it down and you’ll be left with a shiny clean microwave, without any scrubbing.

Remove watermarks from stainless steel

Simply halve a lemon and use it to scrub the steel, it’ll make your kitchen smell great too! 

Spring clean your bedroom

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The Great British Spring Clean has been postponed until September but while you can’t do your bit for the outside it doesn’t mean you can’t focus on the inside so how about giving your home a spring clean instead?

Be realistic about it, don’t try tackling it all at once – especially if you’ve got other things that need your attention – do it room by room, perhaps even enlist the help of other family members at home with you and make it fun for the children to help out, after all many hands make light work!

Over the next week, we’ll share advice on all those essential tasks that can help give your house a new lease of life.

Today how about giving the bedroom a spruce up!

 

Bedroom


Duvet & Mattress

Wash and whiten your pillows and duvet in the washing machine, and air your mattress – you’ll be guaranteed a better night’s sleep when you do it in a truly clean bed.

 

Try the hanger trick in your wardrobe

We’ve all got clothes in our wardrobes we haven’t worn for years, but are you just hoarding them? The hanger trick was made for you. Hang all your clothes so the hangers are backwards in the wardrobe, then, when you use them, put the hangers on the rack the right way. Do this for about a month and you’ll soon appreciate what you wear and what you don’t. So if you have a dress you love and can’t bear to part with it, then wear it!

 

Fold and stack clothes vertically

Organise your clothes drawers by folding and stacking clothes vertically and not horizontally. This makes it really easy to see all your t-shirts/jumpers in one go and will even minimise creasing.

 

Vacuum seal non-seasonal clothes

Don’t cram heavy coats into the wardrobe during the middle of summer or have to dig through flimsy dresses in January. Use vacuum seal bags to store clothes you want to keep but know won’t get any wear for a few months.

 

Store sheet sets in pillowcases

Don’t lose a pillow case, keep sets & their matching sheets in one of the pillow cases – it will keep it all together and be much neater in your cupboard.

Happy bunnies…

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You’re never too old to enjoy an Easter egg hunt which is lucky for you as there are some cracking ones to enjoy!

You could take part in the egg-stravaganza at more than one spot – it just depends how many you want to shell out on!

SURRREY

RHS Garden Wisley, GU23 6QB

Celebrate the launch of The Secret Garden starring Colin Firth and Julie Walters (in cinemas from Friday, 10th April), by visiting the garden trail experience and many other family activities.

Albury Vineyard, Silent Pool, GU5 9BW

Visit Albury vineyard for a family-friendly open day with self-guided tours of the vineyard and a glass or two of bubbly. Entertain the little ones with a vineyard ‘bunny run’ toy trail and craft activities.

Hatchlands Park, Guildford, GU4 7RT

Visit Hatchlands Park in the first flushes of springtime for the popular Cadbury Egg Hunt which can be enjoyed throughout the school holidays. There’s also the natural play area with a tree house and bug burrow to explore.

Runnymede, SL4 2JL (SatNav: TW20 0AE)

This picturesque open landscape beside the Thames was witness to King John’s historic sealing of the Magna Carta in 1215. Follow the Cadbury Egg Hunt for hidden clues across the meadows and along the slopes of Runnymede.

Gilbert White’s House, Selborne, GU34 3JH

Visit this beautiful historical site for an Easter Egg hunt with a difference between 4th & 19th April. Hunt for the painted eggs which are all based on the eggs of the birds which nest in the grounds. Learn about where different species of birds nest as you explore the gardens and meadow. Find them all and claim a chocolate egg! This costs just £3 on top of the general admission price.

Dapdune Wharf, Guildford, GU1 4RR

Stroll along the River Wey tow path and admire the barges, or why not take a boat tour? On Good Friday you can also try the Easter trail with Toad, Ratty, Mole and Badger and enjoy sports day races and craft on Friday 10th, 11am-5pm.

Painshill, Cobham KT11 1JE

Over the Easter holidays follow the trail to find
big statues of eggs, in colourful and crazy designs, around Painshill Park. See if you can spot the unicorn egg or the one that is painted like a pirate.

Winkworth Arboretum, Godalming, GU8 4AD

Put your adventurer’s hat on and explore 149 acres of woodland following a rainbow of clues on two different routes. At the end of either return to the kiosk with your completed trail sheet for a delicious prize. Saturday, 28th March to Monday, 13th April. Usual admission applies + £3.50 per trail. Put your super senses to work and see what you can discover from 28th March to 13th April.

HANTS

Hindhead Commons, GU26 6AG

Hindhead Commons and the Devil’s Punch Bowl are home to abundant wildlife and a great place to explore the natural world. Pick up the Cadbury Easter Egg Hunt trail as you explore the countryside and claim your choccy treat at the finish.

Swan Barn Farm, Haslemere, GU27 2HU

Escape the bustle of Haslemere’s high street this Easter at Swan Barn Farm. On Easter Saturday 11th, explore the woodlands and meadows, while solving nature clues to receive your chocolate prize.

Gilbert White’s House, Selborne, GU34 3JH

Join an Easter Egg hunt with a difference – can you find the painted eggs all based on the eggs of the birds which nest in the grounds? Learn where different species of birds nest as you explore the gardens and meadow. Can you spot the odd one out among the species featured? Find them to claim a chocolate egg!

Petworth House and park, Petworth, GU28 9LR

Join in the Cadbury Easter Egg Hunt, every day of the school holidays and look out for clues in the Pleasure Ground left by Sir Percy the Petworth Bunny and earn your chocolate reward.

Hinton Ampner, Alresford, SO24 0LA

Hinton Ampner’s Cadbury Easter Egg Hunt will have little ones exploring the nooks and crannies of the grounds for signs of nature. With flowers blooming and birds singing, there’s lots to tick off as they use their senses to find the clues on the trail, in return for a chocolate reward.

Uppark House & Garden, Petersfield, GU31 5QR

Complete the nature-themed Cadbury Easter Egg Hunt around the grounds of 17th century Uppark to collect a yummy chocolate treat.

The Vyne, Basingstoke, RG24 9HL

Uncover some of the spots that animals call ‘home’ on The Vyne’s Cadbury Easter Egg Hunt, and claim your prize. Kids can find out about wildlife homes to have in their own gardens too, such as bug hotels and bird boxes. Join the Ranger Rabbit trail to find out how the busy rangers protect wildlife, try the ideas at home, from log piles to bat boxes.

Winchester City Mill, SO23 9BH

The gardener has lost all the spring plants he needs to put in the mill’s garden. On this new spring trail, kids can turn ‘plant hunters’ as they help seek out plants hidden around the mill. Join the Cadbury Easter Egg Hunt over the Easter weekend.

BERKS

Beale Park, Pangbourne, RG8 9NW

Find out more about the resident birds thanks to the Egg-stravaganza family trail from 4th to 19th April. Workshops on offer this month include learning how to make a bug box and insect sessions. Call 0118 976 7480 or visitbealepark.org.uk

Marwell Zoo, Colden Common, SO21 1JH

Always a brilliant day out for animal lovers, plan in an Easter visit to admire the snow leopards, giraffes, hippos and more or book a sunset safari. Call 01962 777407 or visit marwell.org.uk

Highclere Castle, Newbury, RG20 9RN

Enjoy the Easter Egg Hunt and Bonnet Parade on Saturday, 18th April (11am-3pm) in aid of The Murray Parish Trust. Enjoy a spring walk, too. Call 01635 253204 or visit highclerecastle.co.uk

Dinton Pastures, Hurst, RG10 0TH

Follow the Easter Eggstravaganza orienteering trail on foot or bike around the country park to find the clues on Sunday, 12th April. No need to book, just find the instructors behind the café garden. Call 0118 974 6343 or visit dinton-pastures.co.uk

The Vyne, Basingstoke, RG24 9HL

Uncover resident animals’ homes on the Cadbury Easter Egg Hunt or create a bug hotel or bird box. Or join the Ranger Rabbit trail to find out how the busy rangers protect wildlife. Call 01256 883858.

Bucklebury Farm Park , RG7 6RR

There’s always lots of fun on down on this charming farm, especially over the school holidays. Hunt for the Giant Easter Eggs, feed the orphan lambs, book in for a deer safari and much more on this stunning 77-acre site. Call 0118 971 4002 or visit buckleburyfarmpark.co.uk

Cliveden, Taplow, SL6 0JF

This National Trust beauty has teamed up with Cadbury again to host another Easter Egg Hunt every day from 3rd to 20th April. Call 01628 668561 or visit nationaltrust.org.uk/cliveden

LEGOLAND® , Windsor, SL4 4AY

Hop on the world’s first DUPLO rollercoaster and meet Dexter the Dog. Over the weekend (10th-13th April), enjoy Easter fun & build your own LEGO daffodil. Join a Where’s Ollie? badge hunt and try the LEGO® City Deep Sea Adventure. Call 01753 626 416 or visit legoland.co.uk

Wellington Park, Riseley, RG7 1SP

Enjoy Easter crafts and a circus spectacular over Easter weekend, 10th-13th. Call 01189 326 444 or visit wellingtoncountrypark.co.uk

BUCKS

Odds Farm, Wooburn Green, HP10 0LX

Newly hatched Chicken World invites you to enjoy the feathery friends. Take your wellies for the newly reopened H2Odds Water Play and, between 4th & 19th April enjoy the Easter Egg Scavenger Hunt . Call 01628 520188 or visit oddsfarm.co.uk

Cliveden, Taplow, SL6 0JF

This National Trust beauty has teamed up with Cadbury again to host another Easter Egg Hunt every day from 3rd to 20th April. Call 01628 668561 or visit nationaltrust.org.uk/cliveden

Windsor Great Park, SL4 2HT

Enjoy Easter fun for all the family between 4th & 13th April thanks to James Horton’s vintage fair and Berks, Bucks and Oxon Wildlife Trust’s puzzling nature trail. Call 01753 860222 or visit windsorgreatpark.co.uk

LEGOLAND® , Windsor, SL4 4AY

Hop aboard the world’s first DUPLO rollercoaster and be among the first to meet Dexter the Dog. Plus, over the Easter weekend (10th-13th April), enjoy Easter fun with the chance to build and take home your own LEGO daffodils. Join a Where’s Ollie? badge hunt and try the revamped LEGO® City Deep Sea Adventure Call 01753 626 416
or visit legoland.co.uk

JC Farming, Little Kingshill, HP16

Watch live chicks hatching, cuddle and bottle feed little lambs and enjoy cuddles with the animals with a handling session. Have a go on a tractor-and-trailer ride, hunt bugs in the woodland walk. Visit jcfarming.co.uk

Runnymede, Egham, TW20 0AE

This picturesque open landscape beside the Thames was witness to the Magna Carta in 1215. Follow the Cadbury Egg Hunt for clues across the meadows, 10th-13th April. Call 01784 432891.

Bekonscot, Beaconsfield, HP9 2PL

The world’s oldest original model village, opening for the first time in 1929, is a great and timeless day out for grandparents & their brood. Call 01494 672919 or visit bekonscot.co.uk

Wellington Park, Riseley, RG7 1S

Enjoy Easter crafts and a circus spectacular over Easter weekend, 10th-13th. Call 01189 326 444 or visit wellingtoncountrypark.co.uk

Beale Park, Pangbourne, RG8 9NW

Enjoy the Egg-stravaganza family trail from 4th to 19th April. Workshops on offer this month include building a bug box and insect sessions. Call 0118 976 7480 or visit bealepark.org.uk

OXON

Blenheim Palace, Woodstock, OX20 1PP

From 10th to 13th April the Pleasure Gardens will transform into an Easter wonderland with a traditional fairground, dressing-up tent, princess meet & greet, Punch and Judy, fairy stilt walkers.Embark on an Easter Bunny Walkabout, take part in a circus skills workshop, have a go at archery and test bouncy castle or bungee trampoline! Call 01993 810530 or visit blenheimpalace.com

Cotswold Wildlife Park, Burford, OX18 4JP

Always a glorious day out, over Easter weekend (10th-13th April), you can also take in a birds of prey display at 1pm & 3.30pm. Oh, and World Penguin Day is on Friday 24th, FYI! Call 01993 823 006 or visit cotswoldwildlifepark.co.uk

Farmer Gows, Longcot, Faringdon, SN7 7PR

Enjoy all the fun of this friendly farm, which hosts handling sessions at 11am & 2pm daily when you can bottle feed lambs, kid sand wriggly pigs and stroke the fluffy chicks and chirpy chickens.
Call 01793 780555 or visit farmergows.co.uk

Waterperry Gardens, OX33 1LA

Until 21st April, join the Big Easter Bunny Hunt around the ornamental gardens to claim your prize (£2.50 per child, who must be accompanied). Call 01844 339226 or visit waterperrygardens.co.uk

Bucklebury Farm Park , RG7 6RR

There’s always lots of fun on down on this charming farm, especially over the school holidays. Hunt for the Giant Easter Eggs, feed the orphan lambs, book in for a deer safari and much more on this stunning 77-acre site where you can go on a tractor ride to feed the deer and hoppy bunnies will love the jumping pillow! Call 0118 971 4002 or visit buckleburyfarmpark.co.uk

Story Museum, Oxford, OX1 1BP

From 4th April visit to enjoy the final wonderful chapter. This month you can also develop your comic-making skills with artist Neill Cameron. Call 01865 790050 or visit storymuseum.org.uk

Cogges Farm, Witney, OX28 3LA

Always a family favourite, with lots of animal fun, on Wednesday, 8th April, enjoy an Egg Drop challenge with Science Oxford. cogges.org.uk

Millets Farm, OX13 5HB

Mingle with the goats, rheas, sheep, cows, horses and alpacas. Over the holidays, try your hand at egg decorating, get puzzled in Farmer Carter’s Courtyard, burn off some steam at Sprouts Play Barn, go wild at the Falconry Centre and gallop on the magnificent Victorian Carousel. Call 01865 392 200 or visit milletsfarmcentre.com

WILTS

Crofton Beam Engines, Marlborough, SN8 3DN

Step into our industrial and social heyday when steam was king at the beautiful Crofton pumping station next to the Kennet & Avon Canal. Over Easter weekend, 11th-13th April, enjoy cracking fun including an Easter trail, craft fun including stained-glass window making and games, followed by a pit stop at the Engineman’s Rest Café fun for all the …

Cobbs Farm Play Barn, Hungerford, RG17 0SP

This bespoke wooden indoor play barn offers lots of fun without weather worries. Farms 2 Ewe will return on Easter Monday, 13th April, 11am-3pm, with some cute fluffy friends. There are also chocolate Easter egg decorating workshops (£14; crack on as these are selling out fast!) – booking essential on 01488 686770. Visit cobbsplaybarn.co.uk for more information.

Great Lydiard Park, Swindon, SN5 3PA

Hop into Easter with a great trail starting at the Coach House activity centre and hunt the clues around the lakes, woodlands and lawns to claim your (non-food) prize. Drop in any time between 10am & 4pm on Easter Sunday, 12th April. Call 01793 466664 or visit www.lydiardpark.org.uk

Highclere Castle, Newbury, RG20 9RN

Enjoy the Easter Egg Hunt and Bonnet Parade on Saturday, 18th April (11am-3pm) in aid of The Murray Parish Trust. Enjoy a spring walk, too. Call 01635 253204 or visit highclerecastle.co.uk

Bucklebury Farm Park , RG7 6RR

There’s always lots of fun on this charming farm, especially over the holidays. Over Easter, you can hunt for the Giant Easter Eggs or feed the orphan lambs on this lovely deer park. Call 0118 971 4002 or visit buckleburyfarmpark.co.uk

Marwell Zoo, Colden Common, SO21 1JH

Always a brilliant day out for animal lovers, plan in an Easter visit to admire the snow leopards, giraffes, hippos and more or book a sunset safari. Call 01962 777407 or visit www.marwell.org.uk

Farmer Gow’s, Longcot, Faringdon, SN7 7PR

Enjoy all the fun of this friendly farm, which hosts handling sessions at 11am & 2pm daily when you can bottle feed lambs, kid sand wriggly pigs and stroke the fluffy chicks and chirpy chickens.
Call 01793 780555 or visit farmergows.co.uk

The Vyne, Basingstoke, RG24 9HL

Uncover resident animals’ homes on the Cadbury Easter Egg Hunt or create a bug hotel or bird box. Or join the Ranger Rabbit trail to find out how the busy rangers protect wildlife. Call 01256 883858.

Talking Point: David Gray

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Liz Nicholls chats to musician David Gray amid his UK & European tour to celebrate 20 years since his multi-platinum album White Ladder, which has just been re-released in a deluxe edition on CD, digital and vinyl.

Q. We’re excited about you coming on tour, including to Blenheim Palace. Do you know the palace well? “Yes; it’s rather special isn’t it? Quite a regal setting for White Ladder as the sun goes down on hopefully a beautiful midsummer’s day. I’m looking forward to it. I went [to the palace] so long ago with the children and we had to leave because one of them was throwing up. It was a winter’s day – a day trip to an elegant place gone wrong!”

Q. Does it feel like 20 years since White Ladder was released? “It does feel like 20 years – it’s not gone by in the blink of an eye. Doing this tour has been a moment of acceptance. I’ve turned round & looked at how I’ve arrived here. There’s been a lot going on, a lot to negotiate in these intervening years. It feels good to be at this moment now. I was a bit ambivalent about the idea of a tour, if I’m completely honest, when it was first hoisted up the flagpole. But I think years went by and then I thought maybe this is the time to do it because people get sick, things change and then suddenly things aren’t possible in the way they used to be. None of us are getting any younger, so this is the time to give it the full celebration and then I’ll move on to creative pastures new.”

Q. I’ve been reading that White Ladder came from a dark place… “I think the press use the word ‘dark’ a little too liberally… I mean, let’s face it, I was living in north London. I wasn’t in Bosnia. Or Syria. I was eating croissants from the local patisserie – such was the darkness that was engulfing me! I think things hadn’t worked out and that was a hard pill to swallow. When that happens to a musician over a course of many years, it gets gradually worse & harder. There’s a real sense of futility permeating everything you’re doing, apart from in Ireland, importantly {where David’s music started selling first]. That really kept me going. The fact that I had a real connection over there and a fan base really kept me believing something could still happen. I was in a place that, after three albums, I thought ‘is this it? I can’t go on like this, I think I have too change paths’. Then I thought, ‘well, maybe I can make a better record’. You can blame the world, you can blame the journalists, you can blame the record company but I thought: can I make a better record? And the answer to that was definitely yes.”

Q. Did going lo-fi help? “We took the record production in-house with what money was left. We bought a few bits of gear. We got back to making music in my spare room. And that was the best sense of freedom and intimacy. The freedom to explore and discover and get more hands-on with the recording process was the beginning of making this album. A very limited palette of options ended up being one of the strengthening factors in the sonic world that we created. We pooled all our creativity into this and we had no choice; we couldn’t develop it otherwise. There’s a brightness to the record, even though there’s a sort of melancholy that creeps in here and there. It’s the negative charge flipping into positive. It was a ‘do or die’ moment – how do you face the world after it’s shunned you or been indifferent? You open your heart even wider and you go again. That’s the answer. Openness hurts, as Rumi once said. That’s the approach and it’s just incredibly open, melodically unfearful. [White Ladder] is a record that’s happy being exactly what it is, it’s not defending itself at any moment, it’s just being. We made the record and we were proud of it when we finished. We’d taken such pains over every tiny bit. We knew there was no jaw-dropping record production; we didn’t have the means to do that. It would have been preposterous to imagine the success that was going to come.”

Q. What’s your first memory of music? “Two things. It would be my dad playing records when I went to bed. The smell of fag smoke, cigar smoke, wine, beer and then The Beatles or Elton John’s Yellow Brick Road. Particularly Cat Stevens’ Hard Headed Woman, Wild World. Those songs really take me back. Rod Stewart, Atlantic Crossing. That was the early ’70s soundscape that I remember very strongly and also all the beautiful TV music. Bagpuss. Hector’s Garden. All those sounds were very entrancing.”

Q. What format do you listen to music on nowadays? “Well I’ve succumbed to the algorithmic world of Spotify which I default to, and for some things YouTube. If the children are all over Spotify and I can’t get on to my own account, then I might occasionally play a record (three months later you come back and the turntable’s still going round and round). Sometimes a CD. There are some things that don’t exist as streaming music. I’ve got some records that you can’t listen to any other way. It’s a bit like DVDs. I’m still watching a lot of films on DVD because they’re not available on other formats. But generally it’s just Spotify these days.”

Q. Any talented up-and-coming singer-songwriters worth your time and a leg-up? “I don’t think they need a leg-up but I will mention a couple of people I’m enjoying. One would be Big Thief; a group of musicians from America . And a Bristol collective called This Is The Kit [alias of Kate Stables]. They’ve grabbed my ears in recent years. I could go on but I’ll just meander out into obscurity. I work off a very word-of-mouth thing; people telling me about music and I’m telling them back; that’s still the most potent means of discovery. If Spotify or Apple recommend I listen to something, 99 times out of 100 I will refuse to. That’s the kind of stick-in-the-mud that I am. I’d rather sit on my own at the bus stop with the rain lashing down on my face listening to nothing than listen to their recommendations based on everything I’ve already listened to. One problem with the predictive thing is that if your kids are listening through the same service, it suggests that you listen to all the stuff that they listen to, which at the moment is a heavily urban kind of vibe. Not my chosen mood of reflection.”

Q. Mind you, I sometimes discover rare delights from my daughter’s choices, such as Billie Eilish who she’s liked for years. “Billie Eilish is one of those rare successes; there’s real talent there. The record production as well. She gets all the plaudits but really her brother [Finneas] is a big talent sculpting the whole thing. It’s really nicely done so hats off to them.”

Q. Do you have a favourite book? “Well, I’ve got lots. Moby Dick by Herman Melville would have to be one of my favourites, an enduring favourite which I’ve read several times. You could do a lot worse.”

Q. What about your favourite film? “You’ve switched tack.. you’re not going to ask my favourite colour next, are you?! Well, as it happens I was rather disappointed by Parasite, which got a huge amount of publicity with its bizarre Oscar-winning run. But that’s because I’d enjoyed their previous film which is called Burning. I would recommend that as a really good watch. It’s a dreamlike, based on a Haruki Murakami short story. You never know what’s real or what’s imagined; it’s set on the border with North Korea. I loved that film and it should be what everyone’s watching. It’s more fully realised and poetic than Parasite managed to be.”

Q. Have you had any weird fan mail or comments from your fans? “Course I have… but whether I’d want to draw attention to how weird it was, or how suggestive, would not be healthy for people to hear! I’ve had some very odd things. Generally the things I get to read or that are sent are very touching, moving. People’s lives, deaths, disaster, triumph, childbirth, illness, madness. It’s all bound into the album & what it meant to people at that certain time in their lives. I just came out of a pub the other day and this guy was hanging on to a Rottweiler which was dragging him down the street, with his dodgy mate, in the rain. One eye slightly off to one side. The kind of person you step out of the way of. And as I was stepping out of his way he grabbed me and [adopts husky, menacing shout] ‘David Gray mate! Yeah your record saved me; I was on heroin.’ You get things like that. Suddenly I was having this very intense conversation with him about how his friends were dying and as he got into his recovery process he discovered that record. There was something that helped him strengthen his resolve. Well, as he puts it, it made him feel ‘there was something bright out there he could grab hold of’. You hear mad stuff like this and it’s quite hard to process.”

• For tour tickets and to buy the deluxe edition of White Ladder visit www.davidgray.co.uk

Gorgeous gardens

Round & About

All Areas

What better way can there be to mark spring than to get out in the garden? Karen Neville gathers some inspiring gardens worth visiting.

Whether it’s your own garden in need of a little TLC or a visit to a stunning garden lovingly cultivated, there is nothing like getting out and enjoying one. In recent years, much has been placed on the physical and mental health benefits of gardening too, so get out there and be inspired…

CHOOSE YOUR AREA: