Reading Fringe

Karen Neville


Reading Fringe Festival is under way and over the next nine days you can enjoy comedy, drama, art, music, theatre, walks and much much more.

“The most eclectic line-up of events yet” is set to take Reading by storm as the Reading Fringe Festival hits town with more than 80 shows to choose from.

As well as surprising shows, they’ll be popping up at some surprising venues too with an orchestra at Reading station and yoga at the Abbey Ruins among others.

Reading Fringe features a host of local, national and international performers for 10 days of comedy, music, film, family fun theatre, art, walks and much more from 19th to 28th July.

This year’s festival has the theme of Into the Woods and Beyond and one of its stars will be the flagship venue of Reading Minster which will host everything from Irish dancing to ‘bring your own baby’ comedy afternoons for new parents.

A conversation with some of Reading’s refugees, a commission with artists from Norway and an evening of songs from musicals are among some of the other treats for visitors.

We truly believe there is something for everyone

There’s live music and family fun at the Oracle Riverside and the Vue Cinema will hold the film festival for the first time.

Cabaret, comedy and drama are on offer at the pentahotel, the Purple Turtle, After Dark, the Three Guineas, South Street and the Rising Sun. Music comes in genres to suit every taste including jazz, rap, steampunk, folk, soul, classic and a capella.

There’s plenty of entertainment too for younger Fringe goers who won’t want to miss out on the singing snails at the very least!
Festival director Zsuzsi Lindsay said they are “beyond excited” with the programme for this year’s festival. She added: “We truly believe there is something for everyone – whether you are a comedy fan, an art aficionado, a film fanatic, looking to keep the kids entertained  during the holidays or none or all of the above!”

Find out more

Visit the Reading Fringe Festival website for full details of the programme

Castle to Coast tips

Karen Neville


Top tips for the Castle to Coast challenge

It’s less than a month now until Castle to Coast, the UK’s only sportive triathlon, takes place between Windsor and Brighton.

The non-competitive format on Saturday, 10th August, is designed to break away from the traditional time and racing and focuses on the adventure of the swim, cycle and run.

The challenge includes a 1.2-mile swim at Eton Dorney, a 67-mile road race through the Surrey Hills followed by a 13.2-mile run up Ditchling Beacon and over the South Downs.

Founder and triathlon coach Lee Brown has some great ‘common sense’ tips to help participants get the most out of the day.

Race Preparation

* Don’t leave everything to the last minute.  

Life is busy and although Amazon do deliver the next day getting your bike serviced 24 hours before an event isn’t a smart move and won’t help pre event nerves. Take the time before the race to check over your bike and get if serviced if needed. Aim to do this in the weeks before the event, not the days before. Allow enough time for testing the bike out with a few rides.

* Stop messing about with your kit! 

Check it, pack it, then leave it alone. The amount of times I’ve seen athletes losing stuff because they have changed everything around in their bag half a dozen times is incredible.

* Stop winging it 

Skipping the briefing or not reading the event information because you’ve done enough triathlons before and they are all near enough the same never ends well. Fail to prepare, prepare to fail.

* Review the course in advance  

You must get the route straight in your head before the day of the triathlon but if you have any questions then ask the event (race) director after the briefing and they will be happy to answer.

* Warm up properly before you start
Going off like a rocket without warming up will leave you gasping for air and flailing around in the water like you’ve not swam since you were four years old. Warming up also makes you go faster, if that is important to you, and can help avoid cramping in the swim.

* Keep hydrated 

Dehydrated athletes at the start line makes sits at the top list of pet hates on event day. It can be quite a wait between dumping your bags and race start, keep a bottle with you up until you’re about to start then hand it off to a friend or hand it to a marshal. Equally if you’ve got a long day ahead don’t skip breakfast, now is not the time to suddenly see how far you can go on air alone.

* Think about your nutrition 

How are you going to fuel your ride, where are you going to get your calories from and how are you going to carry it? General advice is to aim take on 45-60g of carbohydrate per hour throughout the bike and run along with adequate fluids/electrolytes.

The Event

* Have some patience 

Delays can happen due to weather, safety or simply things over running slightly. Try to stay calm as getting worked up isn’t going to help. Use the time to relax and focus on the task at hand. If it’s a significant delay get some layers on and go back to warming up, it will only improve your condition relative to the rest of the field when things do get moving and they’ve all been sat around getting cold.

In endurance events wild cards happen more often than you might think. In my time organising events I’ve had to escort blind people through run courses and stop a race due to a swan going ballistic and attacking the swimmers. In the event of an event stop, pause or diversion please give the events team a minute to make sure everyone is safe and compose themselves before you start bombarding them with questions.

* Swim/Bike/Run with friends or in a group 

Remember the main aim of Castle to Coast is participation and completion of the challenge. Make sure to stick with friends or make new ones along the way, why not wait and regroup at transitions. Help others on the day if they are struggling and make it a memberable experience for all.

* Take your time on the swim 

We’ve got an open start with the Castle to Coast swim which means you can plan to start with the first group at 8am or enter after they have gone and when you’re ready.

* Don’t rush your transitions 

Remember the Castle to Coast is NOT a race, there is no prize for the first to make it to the finish onto Brighton seafront. Make sure you’ve got everything you need before you leave, get hydrated after the swim and the bike, put on some comfortable clothes and go for a wee if you need to!

* Take in your surroundings 

Soak in the incredible views throughout the route as you head towards Brighton.  Shortly into the ride you will pass through the historic Eton and continue through picturesque scenery in the Surrey Hills. After transition you’ll be rewarded by the spectacular views of the South Downs as you reach the top of Ditchling Beacon.

* Avoid tunnel vision 
When you’re working hard it’s easy to settle into challenge ahead and focus purely on the task at hand. This isn’t great when you start to ignore course signs, the highway code and marshals’ instructions. On more than one occasion I’ve had athletes complain about course marking only to walk them back to a barrage of signs, cones and tape which they will swear wasn’t there earlier!

* Pace the day 

It’s a long day out with some tough climbing on the run, so pace yourself and think about how you’re going to take on the hills. The Fullsteam marshals will do their best to cheer you on of course.

* Supporters 

Make sure your support team know where they are going and the best places to see you well in advance. They will be able to check your progress online as you pass through feed stops and transitions so you should be able to time their appearances to cheer you on. We will put out a spectator guide ahead of the main event.

* TT responsibly 

We’ve got a reasonable use policy when it comes to TT bars. Please avoid using around junctions or groups, but when you’re riding solo out on a bit of clear straight road feel free to get down and go!

* Littering 

If you want to continue taking part in Fullsteam triathlons, then don’t drop litter on the course! Hedges are for birds not gel wrappers and if you drop a bottle go back and pick it up.

* Stay positive 

All athletes have bad days and you may not have achieved quite what you want to but getting negative about it won’t help. Try to write down three positives from any event or training session in your log and one thing to work on for next time. It’s important for your sanity to have more positives behind you then negatives.

And if you follow all that advice, a finish line party awaits on Brighton seafront.

A video detailing the Castle to Coast route is available here

For more information on the Castle to Coast event

Castle to Coast

Round & About


Take on a triathlon with a difference from Windsor to Brighton

Travel from Windsor Castle all the way to the coast at Brighton on a journey covering more than 81 miles –  but you’ll be completing it in a one-day triathlon. 

You’ll start with a 1.2 mile swim at Eton Dorney followed by a 67mile open road cycle through the Surrey Hills before finishing off with a 13.2 mile run up Ditchling Beacon and over the South Downs. 

There’s no competitive side to it and no timings instead it’s just about enjoying the adventure of the swim, cycle and run on Saturday, 10th August. 

Lee Brown, director and founder of Fullsteam, the endurance events company, says: “In 2019 we wantedtocreate something new in the world of triathlon.Castleto Coast’s sportive format will appealtothose lookingtostep uptoa middle-distance triathlon without the pressures of racing and beating the clock.” 

Swimmers will start the event in the water, in waves, and take on the continuous lap before taking to the saddle and embarking on the cycle ride which is fully supported with a feed station, toilet facilities, mechanical assistance and marshals at key locations as riders make their way along the route and 3,400ft of climbs. 

Then you’ll hand over your bike over to the transport team who will either take it on to Brighton for you or back to Windsor. All equipment for the run and changing facilities will be available in a sports centre. 

A finish line party will greet you on the seafront in Brighton where you’ll collect your medal. If you’re then heading back to Windsor, support staff from Fullsteam will take you back on the organised transport. 

Entry, which is limited to 500, costs from £160 before 1st August. 

  For more information about the event and full entry information, including costs, visit 

Chilterns Walking Festival

Round & About


There are a wide variety of walks to enjoy – however you like to take yours – as part of the Chilterns Walking Festival from Saturday, 18th May to Sunday, 2nd June.

Are you an ambler? Do you like to saunter? Would you consider yourself to be a plodder or are you a trekker?

However you like to stroll, trudge, wander or roam, the Chilterns Walking Festival is the right route for you if you like to put one foot in front of the other. The 16-day event offers spectacular views, local stories and fun activities to enjoy as you get out and explore the countryside on one of more than 50 guided walks and special activities this month.

There’s a wide variety of walks to choose from, ranging from short gentle ambles to more challenging hill hikes, all to the backdrop of the stunning Chilterns countryside. The walking festival offers the chance to meet artists, craftspeople, farmers, food producers and storytellers.

You might choose to “meet the maker” with an art and craft walk from Nuffield, visit a blacksmiths and a furniture maker and be inspired by the scenery around you or perhaps you’d like a walk to a woodland camp where a simmering kettle and chance to cook lunch over a campfire await?

For something rather different how about discovering “powerful places in the Hundreds of Aylesbury”: an Iron Age fort, a medieval castle and the Prime Minister’s country residence at Chequers. Discover Henley, explore its history and go on the trail of Midsomer Murders and filming locations – you’ll hear personal anecdotes and details not found in the guide books.
There’s lots of history to enjoy along the way, too. Follow in the footsteps of your ancestors along the Tuddingway, a medieval route along the Thames corridor with divisions up into the beechwoods and take a guided tour of the historic Jordans meeting house (complete with tea and cake at the end) in the company of a life-long resident of the Quaker-founded village of Seer Green.

How ever you decide to walk the Chilterns, there’ll be a trail for you with walks for different ages, interests and levels of fitness; walks for young families, those with limited mobility and dog walkers. Each walk is guided by an experienced knowledgeable leader.

The main event sponsor is camping shop Complete Outdoors. Managing director Andrew Inkley said: “For over 35 years, we’ve been helping people to prepare for their adventures, whether walking in the park, or climbing a mountain. As a Chilterns company we loved the idea of supporting a local walking festival that helps people to discover what’s on their doorstep.”

The festival is also sponsored by family-owned and run brewer and pub company Brakspear and many of its 132 pubs are located along the routes of the Chilterns, so why not pop in to in and enjoy a well-deserved pint along the way?!

  Most of the walks and events are free but must be booked in advance. For full details and to book head to Visit Chilterns

Let’s Rock the Moor

Round & About


Get ready to rock the moor in Cookham

It’s festival season and there are so many to suit every musical taste – if retro style is your thing then Let’s Rock The Moor in Cookham is for you.

Celebrating 10 years this year, Let’s Rock The Moor began in 2009 as a charity event attended by 1,200 people and headlined by Nick Heyward (who remains part of the Let’s Rock family). In 2019, almost 10 times that audience will be treated to non-stop entertainment and hits from many of the biggest names from the 80s including Erasure’s Andy Bell, Marc Almond, Shalamar, Jason Donovan, Go West and Nik Kershaw.

This is the first of 12 Let’s Rock festivals taking place over the summer, expected to attract in excess of 150,000 party goers who will be entertained by some of the biggest names of the era, with different line-ups.

Let’s Rock organisers Nick Billinghurst & Matt Smith said: “We’re really proud of what we’ve created with Let’s Rock and it’s such a thrill to work with so many iconic artists.

“What makes Let’s Rock truly special is our amazingly loyal and up-for-it audience, and every year we strive to improve their experience. Here’s to our best Let’s Rock summer yet!”

Let’s Rock continues to work with many amazing charities including Child Bereavement UK, The Wooden Spoon, and The Link Foundation. They also work with local charities wherever possible. To date almost half a million pounds has been raised for children’s charities by The Let’s Rock brand.

Let’s Rock is a family-friendly festival; children can enjoy complimentary activities within the ‘Kids’ Kingdom’. For adults, there are multiple bars and a ‘Club Tropicana’ VIP area, plus of course the all-important posh loos.

To find out more and book tickets go to Let’s Rock the Moor

Doctor Who at Escape Hunt

Cherry Butler


Worlds Collide, the new Doctor Who escape room in Reading, proves challenging for Cherry Butler.

Worlds Collide, the first escape game officially based on the BBC series, gives players an hour to solve various puzzles and stop the Doctor’s arch-enemies, the Cybermen, breaking though a tear in the fabric of space and time and “upgrading” the human race.

You don’t have to be a true Whovian to play, but you do need your thinking cap on to make sense of the numerous puzzles.

There are some fun pieces referencing the TV show, but they seem to be window dressing rather than knowledge about them being integral to the game. This adds to the entertainment for fans but means you can play even if you haven’t watched Doctor Who since Tom Baker was in it.

Some of the scene setting was a clever surprise, while some was a tad lengthy without really helping us get to grips with the clues.

Not all the puzzles are Doctor Who or sci-fi related. There are so many that we found it a bit tricky to focus and follow the thread; one thing distracted us for ages, but only worked later. With few of the standard letter/number codes, combination locks or hidden keys, they make for a genuine challenge.

Escape Hunt’s rooms are high tech in comparison with more home-grown games. This slickness works well for the sci-fi theme; the sleek-looking setting lives up to the screen version with plenty of light-up gizmos. On the flipside, automation can occasionally cause frustration when items break down or don’t quite connect.

The minimum age to play is 10, accompanied by an adult. Having young Doctor Who fans with sharp brains and curious minds on your team might be handy! As long as they are prepared for a taxing – but not too tense – time.

A game costs £30-£33 per person depending on the number of players (up to six in a team), so Worlds Collide is priced higher than the other rooms at Escape Hunt Reading. Alice in Puzzleland, Wild West, Viking and pirate themed games cost £20-25 per person, with concessions for students and over 60s.

Reading’s games are upstairs in Kings Walk shopping arcade. Escape Hunt also has rooms in Oxford, Bristol and other cities around the UK and worldwide.

You can find out more and book at

Image courtesy of Escape Hunt

Thames Valley: Easter egg-stravaganza

Round & About


Shell out on some family fun at these cracking Easter egg hunts.

Who doesn’t love an Easter egg hunt? You may pretend you’re helping your children or grandchildren around the trail looking for chocolate treats but in reality you can’t wait to join in the eggcellent fun yourself – chocolate doesn’t care how old you are. Here’s our round-up of some of the many hunts you can get cracking on during the Easter holidays.

Unless stated booking is not necessary for events

The Oakley Court, Windsor

The Easter bunny has checked into the hotel and hidden clues around the hotel and grounds. Use the clue sheet to solve the missing word and a delicious treat will be waiting for you.

Friday 19th-Monday 22nd April, free for all

Highclere Castle, near Newbury

Follow a trail through the ‘Downton Abbey’ gardens and woodland finding clues en route to claim your Easter egg. Easter bonnet competition (entries welcome), bouncy castle and other games. Easter trail in aid of the Murray Parish Trust which supports children’s emergency services across the south of England.

Sunday 21st April, 11am-3pm, pre-booking of adult tickets essential, £7, numbers of children needed

Basildon Park, near Reading

Little ones can follow the Ranger’s dog Buddy on an adventure around the parkland while older ones can follow a day in the life of Leo the Ranger and learn about the work they do on the estate.

Saturday 6th-Tuesday 23rd April, £3 plus admission

Cliveden, Taplow

Solve the clues along the trail with the theme of natural life cycles, to enjoy chocolate at the end.

Saturday 6th-Monday 22nd April, 10.30am-3.30pm, £3 plus admission

Greys Court, Henley

There are two separate trails to be enjoyed at Greys Court this Easter; hunt for clues in the run-up to and over the Easter weekend. If you’re lucky you may get to both, for double the chocolate!

Saturday 6th-Tuesday 23rd April, 10am-5pm, £3 plus admission

Blenheim Palace, Woodstock

Enjoy a traditional fairground with the Easter trail in the wonderland at Blenheim Palace.

Friday 19th-Monday, 22nd April, free with annual pass or from £43 for a family ticket (2&2) including entry to palace, gardens and grounds

Fairytale Farm, Chipping Norton

Explore the Giant Rabbit Burrow and meet the Easter Bunny, who will tell an Easter story; every child will receive a full size Easter egg. Join the Easter Bunny over Easter weekend who has hidden six golden eggs on the Enchanted Walk trail – find their location and win a chocolate prize. Other activities over the holiday period, 6th-22nd April.

Buscot and Coleshill Estates, near Swindon

Hunt for nature clues around Buscot Weir to win.

Friday 19th-Monday 22nd April, 11am-3pm, £3 plus admission

Henley House & Garden Show

Round & About


Looking for some inspiration for your home and garden, the head to the Henley House & Garden Show at the weekend. 

The show is returning to Henley town centre and the historic town hall on Saturday 2nd and Sunday 3rd March with more than 65 exhibitors of high-end interior and garden goods and services as well as speakers, entertainment, competitions and more. 

Exhibitors include architects and curtain-makers, hot tub suppliers, cars and garages, cushions, candles and infusers, ceramics, garden sculpture and a boat. Designers for gardens, interiors, lighting and sustainability are available for expert advice, plus conveyancing specialists, home-builders and finance advisors. Home décor stands abound and all styles of furniture are covered from Italian dining tables to antiques, farmhouse tables and chairs to ‘living edge’ tabletop consoles. 

The show’s theme is conservation – both of the home (through sustainable recycling and time-honoured building traditions) and of the garden where butterflies and bees do such hard work.  These insects are the show’s symbols as they appeal to both garden and home lovers.  The RSPB and the Woodland Trust will be exhibiting as well as Henley’s own conservation and garden societies who will be in the town hall. Honeys of Henley will be giving a bee and honey tasting talk too. 

Local school children have been involved in an arts and poetry competition to draw bees and butterflies and the winning drawings and poems will be displayed at the show. There will also be a photography competition that will be overseen by the Henley College. Hashtag #HHGS19 on Instagram to send in your winning photos. 

Demonstrations, coordinated by the Creative Duck, will take place throughout the weekend on the stage in the central marquee. Displays include lampshade making, life drawing, building a hedgehog hotel, and tile painting. Local chefs will also be cooking at the Tara Neil Kitchen stand offering delicious treats to try. 

Three speaking events are taking place in the town hall, two on Saturday and another on Sunday. 

Tickets cost only £5 and all proceeds are going to the development of the garden at the Chiltern Centre for disabled children, a respite centre in Henley. 

Also on Sunday there will be  two Lego workshops for children at a cost of £15. 

To find out more visit 

Thames Valley Hospitality Awards

Round & About


Picture credit: Dijana Capan, DVision Images
Picture caption: Organisers Marc Allridge and Hilary Scott


Nominate your favourites for 2019 Thames Valley Hospitality Awards.

The 2019 Thames Valley Hospitality Awards are open for nominations celebrating excellence and outstanding staff in the sector. From hotels to B&Bs, bars to restaurants, it’s time to share who you think deserves to be honoured. 

In addition to last year’s categories, there are three new ones – Achiever of the Year, Wedding Venue of the Year and Outside Caterer of the Year. This is the second year of the awards and the organisers are delighted to be building on the success of last year. 

Co-organiser Marc Allridge of Cherubs Floral Design said they were very excited about the new categories. He added: “We would love people from managers to brides to nominate in the Wedding Venue of the Year category. And we want to hear form all those caterers who work away behind the scenes and often don’t get recognised for their efforts – winning Outside Caterer of the Year would fix that. 

“We also want to see lots of entries in Achiever of the Year – this is for a youngster who has overcome physical or mental issues to shine in the trade.” 

The gala awards dinner this year is being held at the De Vere Wokefield Estate on Sunday, 28th April and hosted by leading chef Daniel Galmiche. Fellow organiser Hilary Scott encouraged entries for this year, saying: “We had so many entries in our first year it was amazing. I hope that we can get more this year now we are a bit better known. And remember if you missed out last year you can enter again.” 

This year’s categories are: 

Hotel of the Year sponsored by TVHA 

Independent Hotel of Year sponsored by Newsquest Berkshire 

Bar of the Year  sponsor Matthew Clark 

​Restaurant of the Year 

Hotel Manager of the Year sponsored by Cream Design 

​Front of house star sponsored by H&D Food Solutions 

Back of house star sponsored by Cherubs Floral Design 

Warm welcome  

Best breakfast 

Apprentice of the Year 

Three new categories for 2019: 

Achiever of the Year – a youngster who has overcome physical or mental issues to shine 

​Wedding Venue of the Year – in a competitive market who stands out for their venue, service and professionalism 

Outside Caterer of the Year – in a growing market, we want to find the best 

  For full details and to nominate visit and don’t forget to share with us who you are nominating and why!

Marlow Archaeology Society

Round & About


Marlow Archaeology Society unearths the secrets of Reading Abbey.

A manuscript, music and a human hand are just some of the subjects to be discussed by Marlow Archaeology Society as they look at the founding of Reading Abbey.

Founded in 1121 by King Henry I to be his burial church, it was built and designed for both monks and pilgrims.

Speakers John and Lindsay Mullaney will use their research to show how Reading Abbey was founded and how Henry set about acquiring a collection of saintly relics that would attract pilgrims to it and increase the economy of the abbey and the town.

Newly discovered evidence by Dr Brian Kemp, dating back to the 12th and 13th centuries relating to the interior design of the abbey, gives a better understanding of where Henry was buried. Examples of music from the time which Dr Kemp’s research revealed were used on early anniversaries of Henry’s death in 1135, will also be used.

And a rare surviving manuscript reveals one of the ‘miracle stories’ about the town’s most famous relic, the ‘Hand of St James’ which possessed powerful healing properties, performing many miracles in the 12th century. Today the hand can be seen at the Roman Catholic Church in Marlow.

Reading Abbey has recently undergone a three-year conservation project, costing some £3.15million under the watchful eye of the restoration team, Friends of Reading Abbey.

Join the archaeology society at Liston Hall on Thursday, 24th January at 8pm to hear all these secrets and more. Members £3, visitors £4.50, pay at the door.

For more details go to