Star Q&A: Katie Melua

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Liz Nicholls asks singer Katie Melua a few questions about her musical icons & more ahead of her new album No. 8 being released and a UK tour this month.

Q. Congratulations on your new album! How do you feel about it now it’s about to be released? “I feel like it’s been a long time coming. We’ve been working on it for so long and can’t wait to share it with everyone. When you’re working on it it’s always tricky to sort of be able to tell completely objectively how you feel about it or what you think about it. Now the dust has settled you start to feel like you begin to see it properly, and begin to hear it properly. There’s always like the excitement of a new record and that’s kind of bubbling in the team, so I just can’t wait for it to be out there.”

Q. What lessons did you ponder about love, and what do you feel is the most powerful lesson to convey? “I looked at it from the perspective of a record maker and a singer/songwriter who has sung great love songs. And so from that perspective I felt like I had to say and have lines like ‘I think we’ve given love too much airtime”’ which is about acknowledging these love songs, but as I’ve got older the reality of life has shown me that when records just celebrate the early love and the passion of love and the sort of that angle of love like it’s not enough. I think it’s important to honestly observe your life and to put that into your music and your words. Another song on the record – How’d you make a love like that last – is about being just honest and asking ‘what have I actually seen?’. What is the reality in all the relationships that I’ve observed – both mine and those around me? There is a real gap between what I’ve seen in culture to do with love and what I’ve seen in reality and I’m interested in seeing how much we can bridge that gap.”

Q. What activities have helped keep you sane during lockdown, are there any habits you will now keep up? “Well I think I’m going to keep up the habit of taking photos. But really meaningfully. I learned to use a film camera to take photos for the album and the promo photos, I never worked with one before, I’ve grown up with a telephone / iPhone camera. The photographer Rosie Matheson taught me to use a camera and I got to shoot the album cover. It genuinely changed my perception of how I view my visual world around me because I realised there’s so many possibilities of which angles you use and what you put inside a picture. It’s like my visual senses have been heightened through learning to take photos, and I’ve actually just bought myself a camera. So I think I will keep up the habit of taking photos and just being a bit more perceptive of my visual surroundings.”

Q. You’ve spoken poignantly about your mental health before, how are you now and how do you maintain good mental hygiene? “Thank you for asking, I’m feeling really good. You know I was sick in 2010, and I’ve had a really healthy recovering and I’m grateful for it, and I’m also grateful that it happened. And how do I keep my mental hygiene – well in a way the fact that I got sick is what keeps my mental hygiene because I’ve realised how the brain can break, basically, and I place a great deal of importance on my health, on not overworking, on just respecting my mind and my body, and my energy and really paying attention to it, and doing good things, things that I love and being kind to people.”

Q. I know you lived in Surrey for some time. What did you enjoy most about living in Surrey? “I used to live on Nutfield Road, up on top of that hill. I didn’t really used to hang out there much because we moved there when I was just starting Brit School, and so I tended to get the train from Redhill to Selhurst, change in East Croydon. I was always at the train station in Redhill! Because we were on top of the hill the view of the Surrey downs was incredible. Very close to our house there was a lake with water sports, and we’d go out on canoes and windsurfing.”

Q. And obviously you’ve played in Guildford quite a few times haven’t you? “Yes I have. And actually the shows we did there with the Gori Women’s Choir were brilliant. Mind you, my first show was there as well, supporting The Planets I think. Good memories, yeah, really good memories.”

Q. You’ve been compared to your namesake Kate Bush; would you like to work with her and are there any other dream collaborations or icons you’d like to meet? “Kate Bush is the ultimate icon. I would blow my head off if the possibility of working with Kate Bush came around. Are there any others? Yes, of course – I love Bob Dylan, I love Joni Mitchell. I think Laura Marling is brilliant, but you know what’s interesting is there isn’t a great deal of communication between artists, like we tend to keep to our own spaces, which is a shame really. But everyone works in their own cycles and I think that’s what makes it difficult. An artist can spend – years making an album and the work is very engulfing. It’s tough to form friendships because you could become friends one season, and then you could go off on tour for 6 months? And then you come back and then they’re on tour. And even at festivals the schedules are usually too relentless so you aren’t hanging out backstage.”

Q. What’s your first ever memory of music? “It is of my mum playing Beethoven’s Moonlight Sonata on the family piano in Georgia when I was four or five years old. I can still picture it. There was a power cut so there were a couple of candles and I remember hearing that thing of beauty, you know in something that was so emotional and something that I couldn’t touch and I couldn’t see, and the melody just piercing me in the darkness, it was majestic.”

Q. What are your three favourite pieces of music? “Just My Imagination by The Temptations, because I think it is the most exquisite pop record. It’s like a sweet, divine movie that you see, and the vocals and the lyrics are done perfectly; they’re super subtle, they’re completely clear, they’re really bitter sweet, they’re about imagining a lover that the protagonist can’t have. And then the music just is draped around that in the most extraordinary way, and it’s got a great groove but it’s not too loud – it’s just perfect. My next piece would be Mourned By The Wind by Giya Kancheli, which is a classical piece of work, and I actually heard it live performed by the London Philharmonic Orchestra at the Southbank Centre. When I first heard it, it was an out of body experience, because it’s incredibly delicate in parts and then there are certain sections that are mind-blowingly – they hit you like the whole orchestra strikes. And finally I Remember by Molly Drake, Nick Drake’s mum. I just adored the philosophy in this song – it had the most beautiful lyric ‘I remember fire light, and you remember smoke’. You can tell her music and her songwriting influenced her son, it’s just perfect. I feel like her work and Nick’s work defines that sort of indescribable English quality, which is sort of subtle and delicate.”

Q. Your tour is due to visit Berkshire and Oxfordshire, do you know this part of the world well and if so any places you would like to visit? “I played at Blenheim Palace a lifetime ago, but I didn’t get a chance to explore much which is a shame. I just love the English countryside, and I actually worked for three weeks completely alone in a cottage in the Cotswolds. That’s where I completed a lot of the lyrics for the new record, and I think it’ll always be in my heart actually. I had an amazing time just being on my own for three weeks. I didn’t have a car, the nearest pub was a half an hour walk away, and I had a cottage that was generously lent to me by an old friend… for three weeks obviously, not forever [laughs].”

Q. Who would be your six dream dinner party guests, living or dead, real or fictional, and why? “I would say Virginia Woolf; her writing is a big inspiration to me. To The Lighthouse is my favourite book – how she describes life is I think one of the greatest things in western art. There’s a dinner scene in To The Lighthouse where she describes the fruit and the food on the table, and the light in the room and it’s just majestic. So, having someone like that who was such a keen observer of life is a must. I would also have Pina Bausch, a German choreographer who revolutionised modern dance. I love her way of working, how she explored male and female relationships and how she made commentary on it through her dance pieces. Her parents were restaurant owners, so she spent her childhood kind of hiding under tables observing life under the table at a restaurant, and then I think that’s where she developed her kind of – that’s what inspired her. She trained as a ballet dancer and then she was given the job of being the head choreographer at the Wuppertal dance theatre company. I saw her dance once. Maybe I Dreamt It on the new album is inspired by her. The third would be Bob Dylan. I love Bob as an artist – I love the idea of Bob, the character that we have of him on records. I especially love his love songs about women like Time After Time and Lay Lady Lay. I think it would be lovely if my guests are all at the same age that Bob might fall in love with one of my guests and might write a song about her. So we’ve had a writer, a choreographer, we’ve had a musician – let’s go for a painter. Levan Lagidze who is a legendary Georgian painter, a living legend. I know him, and I have a relationship with him where we converse about his work and the process of creating, and I find talking to him really fascinating – we talk about art, we talk about life, and I know the conversation with him will always be fascinating and funny. Next one, okay we should have a scientist! Let’s have… let’s have Newton. Why Newton? Because I loved physics at school, it was my second favourite subject at school after chemistry. His university life was interrupted due to the plague, and it was when he was at home he saw the apple fall and had a major discovery from that – I’m sure obviously that’s not what actually happened, I’m sure it was a build-up over years and years, so it would be nice to sort of hear the full story about his discoveries. And my final guest would be my grandma, Tamara (called her Babula; a Russian term for it) who passed away a few years ago. But she had a heavy influence on how I sing. From a very young age, she would always get me to sing for her in the kitchen – she was always the only audience. And at the age of six or seven, she’d give me proper critique that I could take like an adult, she never kind of molly coddled me – and she always told me to sing from the heart, and I think she really enjoyed doing that.”

Q. Do you celebrate Halloween at all? Is it a time of the year you enjoy? “I love Halloween! As a teenager I just adored Halloween, and I loved doing Halloween parties. I once did a Halloween party where I invited a ghost story teller, and around 15 friends and we listened to ghost stories – but we were about 23.”

Q. If you could make one wish for the world, what would it be? “I think for all of us to pay attention to our moods a little bit more, and go easy on ourselves… yeah, go easy on ourselves as humans because I think we’re alright.”

The Beatles: Get Back

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Get Back is set to celebrate the iconic band’s influence

“The Beatles gave my generation their genius and their joy and they changed the world through their art,” says Nicholas Callaway, founder & publisher of Callaway Arts & Entertainment. “The creativity and inspiration expressed in this landmark book and in Peter Jackson’s film are as important and relevant today as ever.”

His company, along with Apple Corps Ltd. are set for the global publication of The Beatles: Get Back, the first official standalone book to be released by the band since international bestseller The Beatles Anthology.

The 240-page hardcover tells the story of The Beatles’ creation of their 1970 album, Let It Be, in their own words. You’re invited to travel back in time to January 1969, the beginning of The Beatles’ last year as a band. The “White Album” is still at number one in the charts, but the ever-prolific foursome regroup in London for a new project, initially titled Get Back. Over 21 days, first at Twickenham Film Studios and then at their own brand-new Apple Studios, with cameras and tape recorders documenting every day’s work, the band rehearse a huge number of songs, new and old, in preparation for what proves to be their final concert, which famously takes place on the rooftop of their own Apple Corps office building, bringing central London to a halt.

Legend now has it that these sessions were a grim time for a band falling apart, but, as acclaimed novelist Hanif Kureishi writes in his introduction: “In fact this was a productive time for them, when they created some of their best work. And it is here that we have the privilege of witnessing their early drafts, the mistakes, the drift and digressions, the boredom, the excitement, joyous jamming and sudden breakthroughs that led to the work we now know and admire.”

Presenting transcribed conversations drawn from over 120 recorded hours of the band’s studio sessions with hundreds of previously unpublished images, including photos by Ethan A. Russell and Linda McCartney, it also includes a foreword written by Academy Award-winning director, producer and screenwriter Peter Jackson.

The book’s texts are edited by John Harris from original conversations between John, Paul, George and Ringo spanning three weeks of recording, culminating in The Beatles’ historic final rooftop concert. The release will be a special and essential companion to director Peter Jackson’s The Beatles: Get Back feature documentary film, set for theatrical release on August 27, 2021.

To watch the book trailer and find out more, visit thebeatles.com

Pre-order at lnk.to/thebeatlesgetbackbook

Star Q&A: Wine wizard Oz

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Jonathan Lovett catches up with wine expert and TV celebrity Oz Clarke ahead of the publication of his latest book, Oz Clarke English Wine in which he waxes lyrical about the newest new world wine country

What floated your cork to write this book?

I think the time had come. I’ve been writing about English wine and supporting it ever since I was an actor and singer years ago. Year by year I’ve noted what was going on and, to be honest, there wasn’t much in this country until Nyetimber came on the scene in the late 1990s. This wonderful English sparkling wine was a complete revelation which tasted better than most Champagnes! Every year since then I’ve seen new players arrive and the 2018 was our biggest ever vintage, which was talked about all over the media, so I realised then I had to write this. There was no high street book for anyone interested in English wine so it just had to happen.

And the book is also about the English countryside?

Absolutely. I’m a country boy from Kent and when I was growing up I was also in Cambridgeshire for a couple of years so my memories of early life are all about the countryside. When people ask me, “Where would you like to be right now?” they expect me to say, “San Francisco or Johannesburg etc” but instead I say, “Oh, take me to the white cliffs of Dover with the wind blowing in my hair and the sun in my face and I know in half-an-hour’s walking I’ll come to a beautiful pub where I can enjoy a pint of their local beer!”

What English wine would you recommend that won’t break the bank?

Firstly, if we’re looking at English wine, the best English sparkling wines are quite expensive, and deservedly so. But if you want to drink English wine for less money then try the still wines as we make a delicious range. There are vineyards such as Denbies in Surrey, Chapel Down in Kent or Three Choirs in Gloucestershire and you can get these simply outstanding white blends with names like Flint Dry for just a tenner. It’s the same price you’ll be paying for a supermarket New Zealand Sauvignon Blanc and just as good.

Do you miss the acting at all? I hear you were quite successful…

I miss theatres and whenever I go round the country I often go to the local theatre and ask stage door, “Would you mind if I just go and stand on the stage for a few minutes?” as there’s something magical about an empty theatre. And sometimes I stand on the stage and sing, perhaps a bit of Sweeney Todd. I played that wonderful role opposite Sheila Hancock at Drury Lane and my first night was just about my best ever night on stage.

What made you switch from the stage to Sancerre?

Well, I did 10 years pretty much solid without a holiday and I was playing Juan Peron in Evita opposite Stephanie Lawrence. It was a big, successful show then Stephanie left and I should have also gone at the same time but they asked me to do another six months. During those six months I just lost the joy for what I was doing and I started losing my confidence. I started coming into the theatre, fearsome, and I thought, “This is absolute nonsense” and, “I’ve got to leave.” So I went away and sat in my little garret in Islington and wrote a book called Sniff, Gurgle and Spit and realised I could make a job as a wine writer!

BBC’S Food and Drink followed which propelled you into the stratosphere. Why was it so successful?

It was the first food programme to take a magazine approach to what was happening that week. We went out on a Tuesday evening and up to Tuesday morning we could still change what was going on so it was very up-to-date. Then there was the relationship between myself and Jilly (Goolden). Our fantastic producer, Peter Bazalgette, teamed us together and we got on so well. We both set out to democratise wine and wanted to share a happy world of eating and drinking that class-ridden England just wasn’t getting.

Finally, your real name is Robert…where did the Oz nickname come from?

Well, when I was a lad I played lots of cricket for the Cathedral Choir School in Kent. One day we played one of the local schools and they thought, “Ha! These fellows wandering around in their cassocks – what a load of weeds!” So these boys were bowling at our heads but my dad always taught me to watch the ball and whack it to the boundary and I kept doing that and scored 32 runs off eight balls! They compared my pugnacious approach to an Aussie cricketer so I became…Oz!

• Oz Clarke English Wine: From Still to Sparkling. The Newest New World Wine Country is out from September 3rd published by Pavilion Books.

• We have five copies of Oz’s book to give away

Star Q&A: Christine Walkden

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Jonathan Lovett chats to one of the nation’s favourite gardeners, The One Show’s Christine Walkden, who is also a proud life member of The National Allotment Society

Q. This year’s National Allotments Week runs from August 10th to 16th – what’s wonderful about allotments?

A. There’s the fact you can grow your own fruit and veg, but an allotment doesn’t just help with cultivating plants, it helps with cultivating people. On an allotment you are constantly cultivating friends and relationships and there’s a great sense of camaraderie. So much of modern society, particularly lately, is about isolation but on an allotment you get together as a community and it doesn’t matter if you are rich or poor, or whether you have three heads or four…you’re just a gardener.

Q. When did you have your first allotment?

A. I was just 10 and by the time I was 14 I had five of them! I didn’t have any family interested in gardening, but I always felt very much at home on one. I started growing mustard cress which I forced my dad to eat and I gardened a little strip outside our terrace house, then I took over next door’s…and next door’s…before a Mrs Hargreaves suggested I take on her late husband’s allotment. I guess it was a bit strange for a young girl to be doing this, but it didn’t seem strange to me.

Q. A lot of people have taken to gardening during the lockdown. What essential tip do you have for the novice?

A. If you don’t succeed first time then try again. It amazes me that we have to learn to ride a bike or pass our driving test but, for some reason, with gardening people think it’s just going to happen. People don’t persevere and I don’t know why but if something in the garden doesn’t happen the first time then some folk just think, “Stuff it!” I had to persevere. When I started out in this business it was very male-dominated. As a teenage girl in the early ‘70s it wasn’t that easy – but I got there.

Q. How have you coped during lockdown?

A. I haven’t enjoyed it and it I can’t say it’s been a good experience. My work is about people and sharing but I haven’t been able to see anybody so I have found it very difficult. It’s also been quite scary that your life can come to an absolute standstill by external forces. My garden has been gardened to death over the past few months!

Q. You’ve appeared on many TV shows, including your own, and are the resident expert on The One Show. What’s it like meeting the A-listers?

A. I frequently have to pinch myself and find myself saying, “How the hell did a gardener end up working with people like Julie Andrews, Ian McKellen, Vera Lynn and David Frost?” One of my favourite celebs is Helen Mirren who is very keen on gardening and always very willing to open-up about what she does and is happy talking to you. It’s an odd couple – myself and Dame Helen Mirren!

Q. And am I right in saying you once appeared on Shooting Stars opposite Vic Reeves and Bob Mortimer?!

A. Yes! I was on the 2008 Christmas special. I didn’t really know anything about the programme before I went on and I found it a very surreal experience. But a producer I know told me beforehand “Just give as good as they’re giving you” so I played them at their own game. Afterwards Bob said it took them a minute or two to realise what I was doing! It was as weird as one would expect but I survived!

Q. And was there a moment when you thought – I really would love to be a gardener?

A. I remember our headmistress coming into our class one day. She asked if any kids wanted to take plants home and I put my hand up and took three. When I got home my dad said, “What the hell are you doing with them?!” I replied, “I want to look after them during the holiday,” but he said, “You can’t because we’re going away on holiday!” So I put the plants in a bath full of water in the shed and went away for a fortnight. When I came back I expected them to be dead but I opened the door and they were full in flower! To this day I’ve never been able to repeat that…but it has led to a career!

To get involved with National Allotments Week visit The National Allotment Society

Hook, line & sinker

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Fishing is a reel-ly big pull for millions of people and what can be better than sitting by the river in the sunshine – you never know what you’ll catch!

If I asked you what the UK’s biggest participation sport was, how many of you would shout back ‘fishing’? There are around three million anglers who regularly take up their rods and tackle and cast their lines.

It is in fact the sixth biggest sport overall, behind armchair supporting of football and rugby and its popularity has grown among children and younger people with bragging rights to friends evidenced with pictures posted on Twitter and Instagram.

Children will often make a weekend of it, frequently with dad in tow, and camp overnight using set-ups of two or three rods.

It’s one of the very few sports open to all, whatever your age, cultural or social background – we can all enjoy spending time by the riverbank waiting for that pull on the line.

And who’d have thought such a simple action could bring such joy – whether you’re going fishing with your dad for the first time or are a more experienced angler now taking your grandchild for his fishing debut, there’s nothing like getting a bite.

So what is the fascination?

There’s not the contact between participants you get with football or cricket; angling pits participants against the river, lake, canal or the sea.

Angling is difficult to understand or follow for spectators because the degree of success is rarely visible, there’s no ball over the line or in the hole to celebrate but the sense of satisfaction when a fish is dangling from the line is more than reward for the patient wait.

The major advantage for angling is its broad base, with few boundaries. There are no age, gender, race, social class or physical ability barriers, and an angling session can last for as long, or as short, as you want. Anglers can fish competitively or merely catch whatever fish happen to come along. Some choose to go with family or friends, while others choose to fish alone – however you choose to do it it’s the perfect pastime for social distancing.

Fun fishy facts

Many fish – such as carp, chub and minnow – appear to have no teeth but in fact have teeth in their throats, called pharyngeal teeth.

Catfish, a non-native species in UK, has a whopping 27,000 taste buds compared to just 7,000 in humans.

The eel is the only UK freshwater fish that can swim backwards.

More info

To find out where you can fish locally visit

Explore education

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Find out more

For information visit

LEARN AT HOME WITH OXFORD UNIVERSITY

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Find out more

Star Q&A: Julia’s outdoor jewels

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

The GREAT outdoors!

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Salute our Forces

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Find out more

Show your support, visit

Scrubs help

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

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