The GREAT outdoors!

Round & About

Berkshire

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

It’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.

“One hundred and twenty 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 reopening some of its properties but with many restrictions still in place. Visitors can now walk in some of its open spaces locally – White Horse Hill at Uffington; Buscot and Coleshill Estate in Wiltshire; the Chilterns countryside; Ashdown, Lambourn; Bibury, Gloucestershire and Stonehenge landscape. Car parks have reopened at these sites, some with limited space on a first come first served basis.

Some 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 include: Cliveden and Basildon Park in Berkshire; Stowe, Waddesdon and Hughendon, all in Buckinghamshire; Buscot Park and Greys Court in Oxfordshire.

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 Blenheim Palace in Woodstock has also reopened its formal gardens and walks for visitors to enjoy. Again booking for dates and times is essential as numbers are limited. The Palace has introduced a number of safety measures such as installing hand washing facilities and sanitisers, operating a cashless system and screens at kiosks. Visit www.blenheimpalace.com/ for all you need to know.

Walk around the beautiful gardens of Stonor Park near Henley which has welcomed visitors again and enjoy the offerings from street food vendors too. Pre-booked tickets are a must with timed entry only. The street food will also need to be booked in advance. For more information and to book visit www.stonor.com

You can also enjoy a walk around Windsor Great Park, observing the now customary restrictions and Savill Garden has reopened to friends and members as well with a further phased opening planned to welcome more people to appreciate the splendour of the gardens.

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’.

• Share with us where you like to go. Which places are you longing to get back to? Get in touch with us via Facebook, Twitter or Instagram and share your pictures

The GREAT outdoors!

Round & About

Berkshire

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’.

Mini plays in response to Covid-19

Round & About

Berkshire

Four Reading writers have penned mini audio plays about their town and their relationship to home in these challenging times.

Reading Rep has partnered with the UK’s leading new writing company Paines Plough to commission the work.

The plays, part of the project called Come to Where I Am, are available free online and, in a first, people who may find it difficult or even impossible to access digital content can hear the plays over the phone. Prospect Park Hospital which treats mental health and Purley Park Trust patients with learning disabilities will receive the free telephone and online readings.

Links to the plays will also be available www.readingrep.com.

The Reading writers are:

•Sam Butler, co-artistic director of Fevered Sleep which works across artforms making performance, installation, books, films and digital art.

•Camile Ucan, a comedy writer-performer and one third of comedy sketch group Birthday Girls whose podcast Birthday Girls’ House Party is available on BBC Sounds now. She has an extensive body of work in TV, film and theatre.

•Ali Taylor, an award-winning playwright and teacher who has created work for stage and radio.

•Adrian Tang, Artistic Director of Exit Pursued By Panda, a theatre company promoting the interests of East Asian writers, directors, actors and other creatives.

Reading Rep founder and artistic director Paul Stacey says: “We have loved collaborating with Paines Plough to create this unique project and it joins the educational outreach work we have been undertaking since theatres shut and Britain went into lockdown.

“The plays also allow isolated audience groups to access on-demand culture.

“We are also excited that we will host live performances of the plays when we begin our first season next year at our new theatre on King’s Road which is currently being built. We have plans that will incorporate social distancing if this is still the guidance by then.

“Meanwhile, please have a listen to the plays and learn more about what Reading means as home to all of us. We have all spent so much time in our home town for the last few months that it makes them especially poignant.”

Actors including David Bradley, Julie Hesmondhalgh, Lisa Hammond and Sally Dynevor will read the plays over the phone for isolated audiences. In total, 30 short plays are being commissioned.

More info

Links to the plays will also be available at…

Hurst Show & Country Fayre

Round & About

Berkshire

Hurst Show and Country Fayre are championing ‘the show must go on’ ethos by holding their first ever virtual show.

The traditional event has had to be cancelled but the hope is its virtual equivalent will still be able to raise much-needed funds for local good causes including Alexander Devine Hospice and Just Around the Corner, as well as St Nicholas CofE Primary school, Pre-school, Scouts and Guides.

Chairperson Suzy Turner said: “We are very conscious that now more than ever, local good causes are struggling for funding. Last year the Show was able to donate over £15,000 funding so as a committee, we wanted to do something towards raising an equivalent amount.

“We have been able to kick off the fundraising effort with a £5,000 donation from show funds, and are hoping to make up the £10,000 shortfall through the virtual show. We also hope that the virtual show enables people to have some fun and celebrate the fantastic community spirit that has been shown during lockdown.”

People from all over the area are invited to take part in a calendar of online and socially distanced events all over June, culminating in what would have been the show weekend, June 27th and 28th. These include:

· Hobbyhorse Competition – households are encouraged to make and display their own hobbyhorses, with online voting and the overall winner judged by BBC sports presenter, Mike Bushell

· Virtual Classic Vehicle and Dog Shows – enter your ‘pride and joy’, whether it has wheels or a waggy tail, into the competition on Facebook and encourage friends to vote for your entry

· Virtual Market – an opportunity to browse the online shops of the stallholders who regularly support the show

· Village Souvenir Magazine – a magazine kindly produced by Alexis Jaworski Photography capturing photographs and memories of community spirit. Sponsorship opportunities are available.

Over the show weekend itself, a timetable of interactive events from Hurst Show favourites will take place on Facebook, including sing-a-longs with Ukuladies Plus One and virtual sessions with Wokingham charity, Just Around the Corner.

Around the village, there will be displays of art and the popular church bookstall will be set up. Visitors are reminded to observe social distancing measures while enjoying these.

Take-away options will be provided by Hurst caterers, The Castle Inn pub and Vintage Hog Roast, with an ice-cream van also scheduled to stop around the village over the weekend.

There will even be an online disco on the Saturday night provided by local DJ, Thames Valley Discos.

More info

The majority of these events are free to participate, but donations towards the show are kindly requested. These can be made at any time by visiting www.justgiving.com/crowdfunding/hurst-show.

For the latest details of what’s on, or to get involved as a sponsor or stallholder, please follow the Hurst Show on Facebook page, Twitter and/or Instagram, or visit

Gardening leave

Round & About

Berkshire

How does your garden grow? Does it rival Chelsea Flower Show or is it just patches of green and brown in need of some love and attention? Once it looks good, sit back and enjoy it in style and comfort

We’ve had some good weather in the last few weeks and that has definitely been a bonus as we all adhere to the ‘stay in’ restrictions. The other thing it’s meant is that we’re all enjoying our gardens more – showering them with TLC and generally being more appreciative of our personal green space.

And as we move towards summer with fingers crossed for both sunshine and being able to be with our family and friends again, let’s get out in our gardens and make the most of them!

It’s really important at this time to think about our mental wellbeing as well as keeping physical activity up, simply weeding and prepping pots for new plants boosts your spirits. Then sit back and admire your handy work in some stylish furniture on your patio or decking and under the shade of a gazebo!

The lawn

The crowning glory of many a garden is the lawn and whether you’re attempting to emulate Wembley-like turf for the kids to play football on or a lush green carpet to simply sit back and admire, how do you achieve that? You may have had to reseed in the spring with regular feeding, the lawn is a living plant like any other in your garden and needs nurturing. Cut the grass little and often and give it air if needed, make deep holes to allow it to become aerated and you’ve given yourself a good start.

Pots and containers

If you only really have a patio or small space to make the most of, pots and containers are the answer. Not only are they a practical way to grow plants, they’ll be easier to maintain – just remember they need a lot of root space, water and stability to protect them from the wind. And there are a great variety of pots and containers out there now not just the traditional terracotta, although you could update these with a lick of paint making them as colourful and attractive as the plants they’ll hold.

Outdoor entertaining

This is the fun part of the garden and even if we can’t have our friends and family round to enjoy it at the moment with us, making those video calls with a glass of wine in the garden does at least make it more bearable! More and more now gardens are becoming a true extension of people’s homes so the need for a paved entertaining area with space for a table and chairs is essential.

The ambitious among you could also get your teeth into a pizza oven too, it could be used as a wood-fired fireplace even if you aren’t hungry. Sunken fire pits are becoming more popular and for the really decadent, how about a hot tub to help extend the use of the garden into the evening and in the cooler weather?

Talking of the weather, while we’ve been lucky the past few weeks with some glorious sunshine to enjoy, we all know how fickle the English climate can be so some sort of shelter is a must, choose a summerhouse, gazebo, pergola, awning, shade sails or umbrellas – you’re spoilt for choice if the weather does spoil the party.

Water features

You’ve got the basics done so now it’s time to take it up a notch, how about a water feature to enhance the space and provide a focal point, not to mention the relaxing sound running water makes. Water features don’t just mean ponds, there are any number of ornamental structures available which needn’t take up a great deal of space but can be a real talking point.

Flooring

Decking or natural stone paving are the most traditional methods of flooring for your garden space, think about what you want to use your garden for and if it’s uneven and you want to avoid enormous amounts of levelling then gravel may be the answer.

Lighting

How about shedding some light on your garden too – it will allow you to eat, read or just sit and enjoy it long into the evening and lighting doesn’t have to mean multi-coloured Christmas tree-like adornments, although if it’s a party garden that may be ideal. From spotlights to tea lights, stylish decorative lighting needn’t cost the earth. The right lighting really can add a magical touch to your garden but make sure you position it well – you don’t want guests to feel they are being interrogated!

Play area

Many gardens need to fulfil more than just one function, as well as being somewhere to relax, for many families they have to be somewhere children can play too. So how to combine the two? Perhaps screen off an area using trellis, use a shed to store bulky equipment, consider natural materials for swings and playhouses so it blends in more than manmade alternatives – it’s more environmentally friendly too.

Growing your own

If you’re lucky enough to have room in your garden to grow some veggies, there has never been a better time to give it a go. Not only does it deal with environmental concerns but it’s also a cheap alternative, why not get the kids involved and turn it into part of home schooling too! Nothing beats the taste of fresh veg, herbs and fruit grown by your own hands and don’t let lack of space stop you, tomatoes and strawberries can be grown in pots.

Vertical gardens

These are a great way for people with small gardens to surround themselves with plants. Green walls and vertical gardening allows urban-dwellers to make more of their space. Specialist green wall companies are popping up who can install and help maintain your systems.

Wildlife friendly gardens

Do your bit for the environment with plants and structures that attract wildlife, birds, insects and small mammals. Log piles, hedgehog boxes, bee hotels and more will help to bring wildlife that is interesting to watch, and keep down pests such as slugs and aphids. Many plants are attractive to pollinating insects too.

And most importantly once you’ve created your perfect haven make sure you take time to enjoy it with a glass of something refreshing!

Need some inspiration...

Many gardens can be toured virtually while closed, take a look at:
RHS Wisley – enjoy the Glasshouse, Wisteria Walk, Rock Garden and The Mixed Borders as well as aerial views of the gardens
The National Garden Scheme (NGS) has launched a virtual library of tours around its gardens, find out more at ngs.org.uk
Virtual tours, gardens through the ages and top gardening tips can be found at

RBC road markings

Round & About

Berkshire

Pictured are: From Royal Berkshire NHS Foundation Trust, front left Dom Hardy (Chief Operating Officer), 2nd left Steve McManus (Chief Executive) and front right (Nicky Lloyd, Chief Finance Officer) with Reading Borough Council Leader Jason Brock (2nd right), Cllr Tony Jones (3rd left) with members of the Council Highways team and contractors Bellstan.

A public and lasting thank you for the amazing work NHS staff and carers are doing to look after Reading’s residents during the coronavirus pandemic has appeared in the town.

The road markings, providing a message of gratitude from Reading Borough Council on behalf of residents, were installed on Wednesday 29th April directly outside Royal Berkshire Hospital on London Road.

The message reads “THANK YOU NHS AND CARERS” with the NHS logo in the middle of a colourful rainbow heart.

RBC teamed up with its road markings contractor Bellstan to provide the thank you message between the entrances to Eldon Road and Prince’s Street.

Bellstan generously provided the messaging free to show their gratitude to the NHS as well, along with their materials supplier Ennis-Flint and Uni-Play who created the artwork and final print.

The thank you extends to all key workers and frontline staff who have been instrumental in keeping essential services going for Reading’s residents since the pandemic began, including those redeployed to unfamiliar roles to ensure continuity.

Last week the council urged people to do their bit to make a difference by joining its care agencies and help make sure vulnerable adults and older people in Reading are supported over the coming months.

Reading Borough Council Leader Jason Brock said: “Our NHS staff and carers have shown exceptional dedication, coping so well with the additional pressures and dangers that coronavirus has brought.

We want to bring a smile to the faces of hospital staff when they come to work and remind them how much the council and all Reading’s residents truly appreciate what they are doing.

My sincere thanks go to all frontline staff keeping essential services going, including the council’s dedicated team and those working or volunteering with all our partners.

Steve McManus, Chief Executive of the Royal Berkshire NHS Foundation Trust said: “It’s great that so many of our hard working staff now see this lovely message of gratitude as they start and finish their shifts at the hospital.

“We’ve been overwhelmed by the many ways the local community has rallied round to support us all during the covornavirus outbreak, from donations of food and laundry bags, to the weekly clapping for carers.

“This eye-catching message on our doorstep is a reminder to everyone of the fantastic work being done, not just inside the hospital but by carers and key workers across our community.”

Both Reading Borough Council and the Royal Berkshire Hospital reiterated that residents can help the fight against Covid-19 through social distancing and should stay at home, protect the NHS and save lives.

Share how you & your community has been thanking the NHS and key workers in the comments below! 

Room for improvement

Round & About

Berkshire

With the majority of us spending more time at home at the moment how about lavishing some love on your home and considering how you can improve it, Karen Neville looks at some ways to make the most of your home…

Renovating your home allows you to put your own stamp on it and make the space work for you and your family.

Think about exactly what it is you need, and make changes that will make life easier, whether that’s creating an extra room in the loft, knocking down a wall to create a family-friendly kitchen-diner or adding a conservatory, there are numerous ways you can improve your home and add value as well as falling back in love with where you live.

So what are the most popular ways to add value to your home and feel like it’s one of the family again…

Extension

The most popular way to increase the value of your home is to add space with an extra room, an additional bedroom will earn you the most money. Perhaps you need to make more space for another member of the family or your teenager no longer wants to share with their younger sibling – which could be the answer to a more harmonious life for all under the roof.

Loft conversion

This is a great way to add value and you don’t need planning permission to create a home office or children’s play area. If you don’t have room to add on a room then the only way really can be up!

Loft specialists Access4Lofts Guildford say: “Loft space is often underused or not used at all. The most common reasons for this include challenging or limited practical access to the loft as a result of a small hatch opening or a poor-quality ladder and insufficient usable storage in the loft space from either a lack of, or no suitable flooring or shelving.
“Space can be converted into safe and convenient storage for less than the price of a garden shed. Benefits include reduced utility bills from enhanced insulation and a noticeably decluttered and organised home which looks and feels bigger.”

WOODEN FLOORING

A relatively simple way to improve your home, giving it a fresh, clean look is to switch to wooden flooring, whether synthetic, such as laminate, real wood or engineered. Check out what’s best for your purposes and your lifestyle. Wood’s growing popularity means it’s another way to increase potential sale value should you move.

GARDEN MAKE OVER

Right now our gardens seem more precious than ever. If yours is looking neglected, it could be worth paying someone to sort it out. Add fences or trees to provide privacy, make a specific seating area, perhaps add a patio or decking. It’s also worth considering a covered area such as a pergola or awning or perhaps even a summer house to allow for the British summer weather! Another simple boost can be a garden shed and they needn’t just be for storing your lawnmower etc, take it up a notch and it could be an outdoor office, children’s play area or guest bedroom.

GO GREEN

We’re all trying to be more eco-friendly and aware of our planet and not only can these measures help you save on your bills but they can also add value to your home if you do decide to move. Double glazing, solar panels, adding or improving insulation can all make a real difference, as can LED lighting.

SERVE UP A KITCHEN MAKE OVER

If you decide to make just one improvement to your home, then the kitchen – the heart of the home – is the one to go for. But if you don’t have the resources to go for a complete overhaul then replacing the drawer and door fronts and keeping the units can make a huge difference. Even small changes can help renew your relationship with your kitchen, try new worktops, unique tiles, or quirky doors and handles for a simple lift.

CONSERVATORY

Natural lighting is always a great way to give a home a fresh lease of life and a conservatory with huge windows will certainly fit the bill as well as giving you extra space – use it as an additional living room or a stylish dining area. Most people won’t want to compromise on their garden space so consider sliding doors as the perfect way to blend indoors and outdoors.

EXTRA STORAGE

Creating extra storage in your home allowing you to declutter and streamline can give not just your home, but you a lift too, knowing the toys are stored away and there’s not ‘stuff’ all over the place! Build shelves or create cupboards in a variety of nooks, corners and under the stairs.

KNOCKING THROUGH ROOMS

An open plan living area can result in more room for dining in and entertaining making your existing space more attractive and look less cramped.

BATHROOM

Neutral shades and classic styles are the best way to make a splash with a new bathroom. Allow plenty of natural light to stream in, consider spotlights otherwise..

ROOFING, SOFFITS AND FASCIAS

Fascia boards and soffits play a vital role in protecting your home. They are crucial to the structural integrity of a property and usually mounted where the roof meets the outer walls of your home, fascia boards and soffits support holding guttering in place.

Gorgeous with George

No one is a bigger advocate for putting your money where your house is than architect, campaigner and TV presenter George Clarke. He says: “There’s no place like home. Whether it’s transforming a tiny bedroom or managing a large-scale build, we all have the possibility of experimenting with our environment and improving the way we live.

“My advice is to make it personal and beautiful. Your home is like an extended member of your family, unique and personal and its design should reflect that.”

George and his family live in a 1960s house in Notting Hill he has fully refurbished. “It’s not a big house,” he says, “but it has everything I need. My garden studio has to be my favourite part. I’m never happier than when I’m in that space… whether working, reading, sketching or watching TV. It contains most of my books on architecture and design as well as many architectural models of beautiful buildings from around the world. My studio goes some way to proving even the simplest and smallest of structures can be life-changing.”

For more on George & his work, visit

Cotswold Challenge

Round & About

Berkshire

Teenagers aged 16-19 are being invited to take the Cotswold Challenge for the chance to win cash prizes by showing off their skills and talents.

It is an opportunity for young people, who had their GCSEs and A-levels cancelled, to take part in a challenge to excel and gain a sense of achievement as well as winning a prize.

The Cotswold Challenge has three categories: Art & Design; Creative Writing; Innovation & Entrepreneurial Thinking. Budding artists, sculptors, authors, poets and entrepreneurs can enter one or all three categories as many times as they like.

The Art and Design Challenge

Express your artistic talents in any medium: fine art, graphic design, sculpture, print-making, illustration, photography

The Creative Writing Challenge

Entries are invited for short stories/plays/scripts/poems that could be inspiring, reflective of what’s happening in the world today or thoughts about the future, in any genre

The Innovation and Entrepreneurial Thinking Challenge

Do you have a great idea for a product, service or campaign that would benefit the world? How could we improve the planet or environment or our way of life?

There are four prizes in each category of £500, £300, £150 and £50, which has already been donated in full by several generous sponsors (full list can be seen online).

After the competition, winners will be able to pitch for additional funds to take ‘the next step’ towards showcasing their work eg publishing their poem or short story; staging their own art exhibition or taking their innovative idea to an early prototype stage.

The Cotswold Challenge is a brand new innovative initiative, which launched on Monday, 20th April, and has a deadline for entries of 9pm on Monday, 1st June.

Entry

Entry is free and you can get a briefing pack and entry details

The Cotswold Challenge has been created by The Cotswold Collective – a team of five self-employed, professional business men and women, all of whom are members of the Fairford & Lechlade Business Club: Nigel Chute of Chute Design; Barry Jackson of Aspire Academy; Allison Murray of Allison Murray Design; Chris Roberts MBE, founder of the Fairford & Lechlade Business Club and freelance journalist; and Fiona Scott of Fiona Scott Media

Barry the pig

Round & About

Berkshire

Barry the pig needs your help – his home is flooded and he can’t swim!

He lives with dogs, cats, sheep, alpacas, ponies, parrots and tortoises at the Berkshire branch of the National Animal Welfare Trust at Trindledown Farm, in Great Shefford, near Hungerford.

The ten-acre site is a rescue and rehoming centre specialising in the care of elderly animals and needs your help to stay open after being hit by flooding.

Barry hates water and the branch has launched a Just Giving campaign called Barry Can’t Swim with the aim of raising £5,000 to build ditches along the boundary to enable the flood water to drain away naturally into the flood alleviation stream further down in the village.

The centre is totally self-funded and receives no help from anywhere except its fundraising activities and relies on being open to the public for events as well as the income from the café and onsite charity shop.

Ellie Humphreys works for the charity and says: “We are flooded and on the verge of having to close the centre to the public until the water subsides.

“The rehoming of animals does not cover the cost of vets bills, accommodation or maintenance of the 20-year-old farm.

“Not only is this impacting on our funds, all of our field animals have been put on higher ground which is not ideal for elderly animals and their joints.”

And it’s far from ideal for Barry in particular. He lives with a sheep called Bjork who has special needs and was rejected by the other sheep, but now their area is becoming inaccessible.

Ellie adds: “The last time we flooded was 2014 where our fields were out of action for three months.

“Unfortunately we are in the Lambourn Valley so we receive the overflow of water from the higher ground which then runs through half our grazing land, our dog exercise areas and our car parking field.”

Not having the fields also means they cannot rotate the field animals to eat the grass so the centre is forced to buy hay and feed adding to the costs.

Help Barry

The Just Giving campaign aims to raise £5,000 to pay for the ditch work, to help click below

Journey of discovery

Round & About

Berkshire

Fi Harding tells us more about Chiltern Arts Festival 2020 which takes place at various venues between Friday 28th February and Saturday 7th March

As the world celebrates 250 years since Beethoven’s birth, Chiltern Arts is celebrating overcoming adversity in the arts, with its usual array of venues including those in Henley, Marlow, Wallingford and, for the first time, Princes Risborough.

‘It’s a busy year for Chiltern Arts,” says founder and creative director Naomi Taylor, “and an exciting one! I’m particularly excited to have a theme linking all events for the first time and I hope people will get on board and follow the festival as a bit of a journey of discovery. There are also lots of opportunities to get involved as well as sitting back and enjoying; a Come and Sing day, poetry competition and Youth Music and Art Day… come and join us for what we think will be a brilliant week!”

Chiltern Arts offers an array of concerts for all musical tastes: Septura Brass Septet celebrate the music of female composers; the Come and Sing Company invite you to explore Tippett’s Five Spirituals alongside Tippett’s biographer Oliver Soden; the Marian Consort uncover the Catholic music kept under wraps in Elizabethan England; the Phoenix Piano Trio present piano trios from Beethoven and Fauré, both of whom suffered hearing loss; pianist Danny Driver presents Beethoven and the loss of Vital Senses with music from Gabriela Lena Frank and Rodrigo partnering Beethoven’s impressive Hammerklavier; and the City of London Sinfonia close with Beethoven’s famous Septet.

One of the highlights is undoubtedly a mini-residency from eminent solo percussionist Dame Evelyn Glennie, performing with Trio HLK a piece called Extra Sensory Perception; and we’re thrilled to be commissioning a piece from Stephen Goss for Dame Evelyn and Matthew Wadsworth. The piece will be premiered at the Candlelit Lute recital in Great Missenden on Thursday 5th March. Dame Evelyn and Matthew both also precede their respective events with pre-concert talks.

Chiltern Arts’ popular concert and dinner event returns to The Gatsby in Berkhamsted with music from members of the Piccadilly Dance Orchestra, featuring cabaret and a seven-piece band.

Three outstanding young professional ensembles feature at the festival: the Salomé String Quartet, baroque quartet Ensemble Hesperi and wind group the Magnard Ensemble. The first entirely youth-focused event features music from several local young musicians and performers, including students from the Mary Hare School for the Deaf, Amersham Music Centre, Tring School and Chiltern Music Academy, as well as a massed choir led by the Marian Consort.

More info..

The poetry competition also returns, open to writers of all ages. There’s information about all of these events online, where you can also request a brochure, buy tickets and find out how you can get involved with Chiltern Arts. You can also call the box office on 01442 920303.