Foster Care Fortnight

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Foster carers are part of what’s called “the team around the child”. As we approach Foster Care Fortnight, between 13th and 26th May, we encourage you to consider it.


May’s recipe: Egg custard tart

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Egg custard tart with roasted rhubarb

Artisan baker Paul Barlow-Heal, dessert devotee and founder of Cotswold Baking, shares special recipe for gluten free sweet pastry, roasted rhubarb and egg custard, making this gorgeous egg custard tart!

(Prep: 30 mins [see pastry] – Cooking: 55 mins – Makes: one large tart)

Gluten Free sweet pastry (always make 24hrs before needed)


• 500 grms gluten free plain flour ( I use doves)
• 225 grms diced unsalted butter
• 110 grms caster sugar
• 1.5 tsp xantham gum
• 2 large eggs
• 75 mls milk
• ¼ tsp Vanilla extract
• Good pinch sea salt
• 1 egg for sealing


1. Place flour, xantham gum, caster sugar and diced butter into a machine mixing bowl and blend until mix resembles fine breadcrumbs and butter is incorporated.

2. Whisk eggs and milk together with salt and vanilla. Pour onto the flour and butter and mix on slow speed until the dough comes together. The mix will seem wet, this is normal.

3. Transfer the dough to a container, cover with clingfilm and store overnight in the fridge

4. Remove the dough from the fridge and on a lightly floured surface gently knead the dough to make it pliable. Don’t worry about over working it. There is no gluten in it so this will not happen.  The enemy of gluten free pastry is warmth, because it is soft it will become very difficult to work with quite quickly.

5. Roll out the dough using gluten flour or rice flour as a dusting, and roll to about 3ml thick, then line your 10” loose bottom tart case making sure the pastry is tucked nicely into the edges of your tart case, and trim away the overlapping pastry, but don’t throw this away. You can reuse as it will not get tough.

6. Prick the bottom of the pastry case with a fork then place in the fridge for 20 mins to firm up.

7. Line the pastry case with a circle of baking parchment and baking beans ( I use uncooked rice) and bake in a pre-heated oven at 160 C for about 20 mins then remove the parchment and bake for a further 10 mins.

8. Gluten free pastry does not take on a golden colour like normal pastry, it does stay quite pale. Remove from the oven, leave to cool slightly then brush the inside of the case with some of the 1 remaining beaten egg ensuring it is nicely sealed then bake for a further 2/3 mins to cook the egg glaze. Leave to cool

roasted rhubarb


• 500 grms rhubarb
• 80 grms light soft brown sugar
• Zest of 1 lemon


1. Wash and trim the ends of the rhubarb, then cut into 2” lengths. Place the rhubarb in a bowl and add the zest and the sugar. Toss the ingredients together.

2. Place the rhubarb onto a shallow baking tray lined with two layers of baking parchment then cover with another piece of parchment and place in a preheated oven at 180c and cook for 15 mins.

3. Remove the parchment and check the rhubarb, it should be tender, but not mushy. If it needs more cooking, place back in the oven for a further 5 mins. Remove from the oven and leave to cool.

egg custard


• 10 Egg Yolks
• 3 whole eggs
• 425 mls double cream
• 425 mls milk
• 160 grms caster sugar
• 1 vanilla pod
• Nutmeg for grating


1. Place the cream and milk with half the sugar and split vanilla pod into a saucepan and bring slowly to a boil.

2. Whisk the egg yolks and whole eggs together with the remaining sugar. When the cream mix has come to the boil pour a third onto the egg mix whilst whisking in, then finally add the rest of the liquid stirring until all incorporated.

3. Pass the mix through a fine sieve.

4. Place the tart case into a preheated oven at 140c for a couple of minutes then leaving the tart case in the oven slowly pour your egg mix into the case, taking care not to over fill the case or spill any.

5. Once the tartf case is completely full ,grate some fresh nutmeg on top and bake for about 30/40 mins, (this can vary depending on your oven.

6. If the mix starts to bubble around the edges turn down your oven until there is a slight wobble in the centre of the tart. Remove from the oven and leave to cool in the tin on a wire rack.

7. When completely cool place the tart in the fridge and chill to set.

To serve, cut a nice slice of the tart and serve with some roasted rhubarb and its cooking liquor and a spoonful of full fat crème fraiche.


Christian Aid Week

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Today marks the start of Christian Aid Week, the national week raising money for the worldwide work of Christian Aid.

Last year more than £8million was donated to fight poverty and help poor communities around the world.

The focus this year is on helping communities in Sierra Leone where a lack of healthcare means it is the world’s most dangerous place to give birth – 10 women die every day while going through this natural experience.

While many are familiar with the doorstep collections there are other ways to help too. One of Christian Aid Week’s key initiatives is the Big Brekkie – whether in your home, office or church host a big breakfast as more than 2,500 people did last year.

A free fundraising pack is available, just sign up online at

Christian Aid has more than 70 year’s experience of working to support communities, helping men, women and children in poverty and at times of disaster.

Local volunteer house-to-house collectors will be delivering envelopes around the country but if your street is not covered consider making a donation at

Various events are being held to help raise funds as well such as the service and tea at Holy Trinity Church in Charlton today (Sunday 12th May), from 5.15pm and a garden and conservatory cream tea the following Sunday (19th) in Church Street, Appleford – just follow the signs in the village. There’ll be a plant stall, music and home made teas to enjoy from 3pm to 5.30pm for just £4, with all proceeds going to Christian Aid.

Christian Aid Week runs from 12th to 18th May.

Photo: Nurse Judith Lassie treats 12 day old baby twins Credit: Christian Aid/Tom Pilston

Marathon in May

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Can you take on PACT’s Marathon in May challenge?

If you’re a runner who’s been inspired by today’s London Marathon to give the 26.2miles a go then how about trying PACT’s Marathon in May challenge.

Complete the distance on your own or as a group of friends or colleagues or with your family and support the work of Parents and Children Together.

The charity advertises it as “your challenge, your way” and that’s because it doesn’t have to be done as a run you can choose to walk, cycle or swim the distance if you prefer.

Why not walk a mile every day for 26 days in May – yes it doesn’t have to be all in one day –  or how about going out for a six and a half mile bike ride each weekend in the month?

PACT’s Marathon in May costs just £14 to take part in and you’ll get a medal and a colour-in chart to track your progress. Extra medals can be ordered too for any children taking part, for just £2.50 each.

All proceeds from the registration fees will be used to support PACT’s work building and strengthening and families.

The Reading-based charity has been helping families since 1911 and as well as being one of the UK’s leading independent adoption agencies, it offers counselling, therapy and life story work helping children to overcome difficulties in childhood, teenage years and in early adulthood.

PACT also runs community projects helping vulnerable children and adults facing issues such as domestic abuse, homelessness and debt.

  For more about PACT and Marathon in May and how to take part please visit 

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

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)


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


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)


• 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)


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 for more recipes. For details about Alresford Watercress Festival visit

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 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 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