‘Tis the season…

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Christmas is approaching and, ahead of advent, we thought that now would be a good time to suggest some great places across our large & thriving readership areas for a tipple, a bite or for presents.

So stop and enjoy a festive drink or a winter warmer meal, perhaps as a breather while you’re out shopping or else for a date or catch-up with friends. Those who work in our food & drink industry will tell you that it’s hard work and local stars deserve our recognition. Share your favourites, too in the comments below.

CHOOSE YOUR AREA:

DOGLE 2019

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Photo: Sophie and her puppy, Alan Smith, overlooking the Col De L’Iseran in France in the summer – Alan will be walking the final stage of the challenge with Sophie

Oxfordshire adventurer Sophie Rooney is three days into an incredible 1,000-mile challenge.

On Thursday 26th she began an endurance event, DOGLE, which covers the length of Britain in 30 days, finishing on 26th October, broken down into 10 stages – each stage being completed in a different sporting discipline.

Sophie from Bodicote will be joined by fellow adventurers on each of the stages, many of them incredible athletes in their own right.
And she’s doing it all to raise funds for IAPWA (The International Aid for the Protection and Welfare of Animals) which was founded in 2009 to protect and improve the welfare of animals in need.

Sophie’s incredible challenge involves:

STAGE 1

John O’Groats to Inverness
Gravel biking
150 miles in 3 days


STAGE 2

Inverness to Fort William
Kayaking
60 miles in 2 days


STAGE 3

Fort William to Milngavie
Running
96 miles in 4 days


STAGE 4

Milngavie to Ambleside
Cycling
126 miles in 2 days


STAGE 5

Lake Windermere
Swim
11 miles in 1 day


STAGE 6

River Levern
White water raft
4 miles in 1 day


STAGE 7

Haverthwaite to Prestatyn
Cycling
129 miles in 1 day


STAGE 8

Prestatyn to Chepstow (Offa’s Dyke)
Running
177 miles in 7 days


STAGE 9

Chepstow to St Just
Scooting
239 miles in 8 days


STAGE 10

St Just to Land’s End
Dog walking
8 miles in 1 day


Marianne Beggs, fundraising and communications at IAPWA, said: “We are very grateful that Sophie is attempting this incredible endurance event. Money raised from the event will ensure many animals in need have access to vital treatment and support through our projects.”

Support Sophie

Help Sophie to reach her target by donating to the cause on Just Giving

Second chances

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For 159 years, Battersea Dogs & Cats Home has rescued and rehomed lost, abandoned, neglected and unwanted pets that, through no fault of their own, have found themselves in desperate need of a second chance.

Since it was founded in 1860, Battersea has helped over three million dogs and cats to find new loving homes or be reunited with their original owners after going astray. But Battersea is not just a rescue charity. Our work stretches beyond our centres through our position as a driver for change and a champion for vulnerable animals. In the last decade alone, we have worked to bring about key changes in the law, such as increased sentences for animal cruelty, and we are recognised for our positive approach to partnership working and sector-wide collaborations.

Across our three sites – Battersea London, Brands Hatch, and Old Windsor – we help over 7,000 dogs and cats every year. Some have been given up when their owners can no longer care for them. Some have been abandoned and found wandering the streets.

Battersea’s promise to these frightened, often neglected animals is to never turn them away.

We aim to never turn away a dog or cat in need of help, caring for them until their owners or loving new homes can be found, no matter how long it takes. We are champions for, and supporters of, vulnerable dogs and cats, determined to create lasting changes for animals in our society.

In 2018, Battersea rehomed on average 6 dogs and 6 cats every day. For our staff and volunteers, there’s nothing better than seeing our animals setting off for their new life.

Our Values

Everything we do as individuals and teams, as vets and volunteers, nurses, kennel and rehoming staff, fundraisers and foster carers is underpinned by Battersea’s Values.

Care: We are passionate about the welfare of dogs and cats, and all our work is inspired by the needs of, and our love for, animals.

Excellence: We have been working tirelessly to provide shelter for animals for over 150 years. We are one of the oldest animal charities in the world and the knowledge and experience we have gained has made us credible leaders in our field.

Determination: We deal with some of the most challenging situations that impact the lives of dogs and cats. We seek to tackle problems at source by working actively with communities and wider society, challenging misconceptions and encouraging owners to take responsibility for their pets and treat animals humanely. We will not shy away from difficult issues.

Respect: We treat all animals and people with respect and dignity.

Integrity: We are trustworthy, we are indebted to our supporters and greatly value all the donations given to us, ensuring that they are carefully spent on providing the best possible future for animals.

Commitment: We strive to find every dog and cat a loving home. We put no limit on the time an animal stays with us, and we will never put an animal to sleep unless significant medical, safety, or legal reasons compel us to do so. Our staff and volunteers are hugely committed.

Our Reach

Battersea’s respected, authoritative and influential voice has a proven record in bringing about policy and legislative change to benefit animal welfare, and 2018 was no exception.

We had a wide range of successes, all aimed at improving the health and welfare of animals that cannot speak for themselves. These successes included; influencing Government to support a ban on third party sales and having various asks from our Backstreet Breeding campaign included in the regulations for breeding and sale provisions, resulting in closure of the loophole that previously allowed sales of puppies under eight weeks.

How You Can Help

Without the support of our incredible staff, volunteers and supporters, Battersea would not be able to continue all the hard work we do to help dogs and cats.

In 2018, over 1,000 volunteers and foster carers donated almost 150,000 hours to Battersea, across all three centres, assisting our staff in a huge variety of ways. As well as our ever-popular animal welfare roles, volunteers help staff with office duties, represent us at events, show visitors around our centres and help us raise vital funds. We are also supported by a team of community engagement volunteers who go into local schools to educate children about our cause and responsible pet ownership.

Our volunteers can feel good about giving back to the community and helping dogs and cats that may not have had the best start in life. They gain new and transferable skills as well as developing current ones and many will use their experiences with us to enhance their CVs or even make a full career change.

It’s also a great way to make lots of new two-legged and four-legged friends!

Battersea Dogs & Cats Home

For more information, please visit

Headlines & Hedgerows

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Our countryside & its wildlife is at risk. We encourage you to join the campaign to save our endangered hedgerows and share an exclusive extract from John Craven’s new book.

The hedgerows that criss-cross our countryside are not only an iconic sight, but a vital habitat and corridor for many of our native species. However, they are becoming increasingly fragmented which is threatening the wildlife that depends on them.

We’ve lost about half our hedgerows since WWII. Although the rate of direct hedge removal has been reduced, hedgerows are being lost simply through how they are managed.

“With 70% of UK land being agricultural, hedgerows offer the safest route for wildlife to travel across farmland,” says Megan Gimber, key habitats project officer at PTES. “Sadly, many hedgerows are becoming ‘gappy’, which fragments this amazing network. And, without more sensitive management, many hedgerows are at risk of being lost altogether. This is problematic, especially when we’re seeing a fall in numbers of the animals that depend on them, such as hedgehogs, bats, hazel dormice and song thrush.”

In Britain, habitat fragmentation is thought to be a limiting factor for the distribution of some species and a threat to others’ survival. Corridors play a vital role preserving a number of species deemed ‘at risk’. Some 16 out of the 19 birds included in the Farmland Bird Index, used by government to assess the state of farmland wildlife, are associated with hedgerows.

Healthy hedgerows reduce soil erosion, flooding damage and air and water pollution. They provide forage for pollinating insects, predators to keep crop pests in check and shelter for livestock, reducing deaths from exposure and improving milk yields. Hedges help us fight climate change by storing carbon and reduce the damage from flooding.
To take part in the Great British Hedgerow Survey or find out more, visit hedgerowsurvey.ptes.org

Hedgerow. Credit Allen Paul Photography & Shutterstock.com
annie-spratt-cZFe4oIIPg8-unsplash
An extract from John Craven’s new book

Headlines and Hedgerows is published by Michael Joseph

We have all heard that well-known piece of advice first coined by W.C. Fields: “Never work with animals or children.” Well, I’ve done both throughout my career (in fact, I couldn’t have succeeded without them!) so in my case at least that old adage is totally wrong.

I suppose one reason for my longevity is that I have never been very ambitious. I have not sought the headlines, never seriously courted celebrity nor been tempted to take chances on high-profile but potentially risky and short-lived programmes – apart from one, and that was Newsround, which was a six-week experiment in 1972. Thankfully it is still going strong so, as it turned out, it was not much of a gamble and a recent poll in Radio Times placed Newsround at number three in a list of the top 20 children’s programmes of all time.

And Countryfile is often in the top 20 of most-watched shows. During my 30 years there I’ve seen rural issues ranging from social isolation and deprivation to the way our food is produced climb higher and higher up the national agenda. That our audience is split pretty evenly between country dwellers and townies proves to me that, united as a nation in this at least, we want to preserve, protect and enjoy our glorious countryside…

For my Countryfile interview with Prime Minister David Cameron, we met for an hour at Cogges Manor Farm, a rural heritage centre in his Oxfordshire constituency. The cameras were set up around the kitchen table and before he arrived a lady who seemed to be in charge of his “image” wanted to know where he’d sit. She checked the angles and saw a large Welsh dresser in the background. “Could we move some of those plates and ornaments,” she said. “It’s too fussy.” It proved that politicians have learned to be careful what’s behind them on screen. An exit sign, for instance, would be the last thing they wanted.

When Mr Cameron came in, dressed casually in a jumper – this, after all, was Countryfile – he said “I was brought up on you, John!” I don’t feel particularly old but it’s alarming when the man leading the country says you were part of his childhood! We had a wide-ranging conversation and he had no idea of the questions beforehand. I challenged him on his plan to make his administration the greenest government ever (which didn’t really happen) and overdevelopment threats to the landscape. “I care deeply about our countryside and environment,” he told me earnestly. “I’d no more put them at risk than I would my own family.”

Today, I wonder what he’d make of the report by the Campaign to Protect Rural England revealing 15,500 new houses have been approved in areas of outstanding natural beauty in the years since. We also talked of his plans for a free vote in Parliament on bringing back hunting with hounds (which never happened) and persuading all other EU countries to enforce farm animal welfare laws as diligently as the UK (still waiting for that). I was impressed by his detailed knowledge of rural issues, even when pressed for details. A few months later at a Downing Street lunch for people involved in all aspects of the countryside, he smiled and said he hadn’t expected to be grilled by “a rural Jeremy Paxman.”

The Great British Hedgerow Survey

To take part in the Great British Hedgerow Survey or find out more

Macmillan coffee morning

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Join thousands holding coffee mornings to raise funds for Macmillan on Friday, 27th September

Last year almost £27million was raised through people drinking coffee and eating cake as part of Macmillan’s Biggest Coffee Morning and this year with your help they want to top that.

The first get together was held in 1990 with the very simple idea that people would gather over a cuppa and donate the cost of their coffee to Macmillan. Such was its success it was decided to do it again the following year but to take it national – since then the coffee mornings have gone on to raise more than £200million.

Whatever you raise it all helps make a difference – just £28 could pay for a Macmillan nurse for an hour, helping those living with cancer and their families receive practical and emotional support; £112 could pay for a Macmillan social care worker for a day and £210 could fund a Macmillan nurse for a day. However much you raise, you’ll be making a difference.

And if you need some ideas for what to treat your family, friends or work colleagues to while drinking their coffee, they can help with that too. How about a piece of cherry and almond tray bake, coffee and walnut cake or try a savoury option of gruyere, bacon and leek scones?

Whatever takes your fancy, get cooking (you can even cheat and buy ready made if you like) but join in and help people have access to cancer support in their communities.

National Allotments Week

Karen Neville

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Allotment holders all over will be rejoicing this week – it’s National Allotments Week, 12th to 18th, and this year the National Allotment Society is celebrating the shared harvest from plots.

Every growing season plants produce more crops than any plot-holder can freeze, pickle or jam so don’t be surprised if you see your growing colleagues arrive at work with baskets of plums, sticks of rhubarb or plastic bags full of green beans.

Many will also share their excess with good causes and this year many have also been looking at donating to food banks.

National Allotments Week started in 2002 to raise awareness of allotments and how they help people to live healthier lifestyles, grow their own food, develop friendships and boost communities.

Growing, cooking, eating and sharing home-grown food is just one benefit of allotment life and while there can sometimes be a long wait for plots in some areas, don’t be put off, get on a list for a plot near you and start planning.

Among the local allotment associations taking part are:

Alton Allotments Association, Farmers Market stall, High Street, Alton – Saturday, 10th August, 10am-2pm

Wokingham Allotment Association, Ormonde Road Allotments, Wokingham – Saturday, 10th August, 2-4pm. Enjoy an open day, entertainment, competitions, tea and cake

Pangbourne Allotments, Grahame Avenue, off Kennedy Drive – Saturday, 17th August, 10am-noon. There’s an open morning, allotment tours, information on bee keeping, demonstrations of hand pumps for children, produce stall and refreshments

On a larger scale over the next few months

Visit the Royal County of Berkshire Show at Newbury on 21st and 22nd September where you’ll find a grow your own section for the chance to show off fruit, veg and preserves.

In Surrey in October you can visit RHS Wisley Taste of Autumn from 16th to 20th and enjoy the best of the season with a harvest celebration. The orchard will be laden with fruit and there’ll be a range of local and artisan food and drink.

Racing and raving at Sandown Park

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Michelle Miley reviews: Superstar DJ and Ibiza veteran Pete Tong and Jules Buckley’s genre-smashing Heritage Orchestra headline an evening at the races with an iconic collaboration that pays homage to over twenty years of era-defining, dance music tracks encapsulating the spirit of the White Isle.

As the last horse race of the evening concludes with a steward’s enquiry, racegoers jockey for position at the open-air stage in front of Sandown Park’s grandstand in anticipation of legendary DJ and producer Pete Tong and the Heritage Orchestra’s Ibiza Classics concert. The stage begins to fill with musicians whilst the 65-piece orchestra is packed onto the tiny platform.

With a thunderous rumble, the unmistakable string melody of Fatboy Slim’s Right Here Right Now starts up and resonates across the concourse. A spotlight illuminates Tong as he takes up his place behind the decks. It doesn’t take long for a cosmopolitan crowd of racegoers and party people to begin whooping and clapping to the familiar dance hit that is amplified with classical instruments deftly conducted by Jules Buckley.

Blue lasers pour out from the stage and the Heritage musicians instigate a round of hands-in-the-air clapping as the xylophonist takes on the Eric Prydz, keyboard-based Pjanoo with fantastic dexterity. Tong seamlessly flows in Lola’s Theme accompanied by the first singer of the night who, along with most of the spectators, belts out the chorus “I’m a different person, yeah. Turn my world around.”

Dance-floor filler Children by the late Robert Miles follows in the mix as lasers shoot streams of coloured light across the sky through a cloud of smoke reminiscent of dingy, underground nightclubs that epitomise the 90’s party scene. The crowd go wild when ATM’s Balearic beauty 9AM (Till I Come) drops and is elevated by the orchestra’s keen drummer. Everyone on stage (and off!) is fully immersed in the magic of the moment.

Tong takes to the mic and asks racegoers if they “Backed any winners?” to which two punters aptly reply, “No. It all went Pete Tong!”

Arman Van Heldon’s You Don’t Even Know Me follows a vocal rendition of Rui Da Silva’s Touch Me. The audience do not hold back when red lasers cut through the air and the heavy bassline of the Chemical Brothers’s smasher Galvanise blasts from the stage.

Guest vocalist and rising-star Becky Hill is a highlight, dressed in an orange two-piece outfit, killing it with her performance of the Robin S belter Show Me Love as everyone watching jump along and sing the words in harmony.

The orchestra shine as the nostalgic journey continues through largely instrumental tracks including Café Del Mar, Strings of Life, Knights of the Jaguar and Yeke Yeke. Daft Punk’s beloved tune One More Time is followed by the return of Becky Hill for her superb rendition of Sing It Back. People are ecstatic when the distinctive riff of Donna Summer’s 70’s disco anthem I feel love is skillfully blended with Moloko’s 90’s single.

“Want to go to Ibiza?” is the next question posed by Tong as he drops Underworld’s bass thumping Born Slippy. The track is reworked with the inclusion of a guest MC who recites poetic lyrics of familiar sights and sounds evocative of the “magical land”.

Jubilant onlookers bob along to Swedish House Mafia’s Miami to Ibiza until the iconic drum sample featured in the Faithless dance music staple Insomnia kicks in and once again gets them throwing their hands in the air, repeating “I can’t get no sleep” to the sound of the hypnotic beats.

The night culminates with one last appearance from Becky Hill who blissfully sings everyone’s favourite cover song, Candi Station’s You Got The Love, while racegoers and ravers alike sway in unison and holler the lyrics at the top of their voices in appreciation.

An encore is a sure-fire bet as a chant of “one more tune” reverberates around the showground. Tong is swift to respond as he pulls out old school rave crowd-pleaser Out Of Space by the Prodigy. In true Ibiza fashion, the night triumphantly finishes on a euphoric high with everybody jumping up in elation as the pounding bassline drops and fingers point firmly towards the sky.

A final flourish sees the Heritage Orchestra serenade Tong for his birthday with a stellar delivery of the Happy Birthday song!

Pete Tong and the Heritage Orchestra will be back out on the road with a brand new Ibiza Classics tour in December 2019 climaxing with two nights at London’s O2.

Cycle to work day

Karen Neville

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Today is the day to get on your bike and take part in the UK’s biggest cycle community event.

Cycle to Work Day is for everyone whether you haven’t cycled for years or are never off your bike, this is about giving it a go.

Since its launch in 2012, thousands of enthusiastic riders have hit the streets to celebrate everyday cycling – and all you need to take part is a bike, new or old, and the desire to ride.

You can cycle on your own or get your colleagues involved – however you do it and however far you go, it’s all about having fun!
Cycle to Work Day runs on Cyclescheme’s Love to Ride community and even if you’re not taking part in today’s challenge but are interested in getting out on two wheels it’s well worth a look at here Cycle Scheme

The Government scheme allows you to save between 25 and 39 per cent on a new bike for work.

Cycling has experienced a huge growth in popularity in recent years and is a fun and effective form of exercise as well as being great for the environment.

Cycling improves your mental well-being as well as your physical health and helping weight loss. It also promotes better lung health, can help cut heart disease and the risk of cancer and the low impact means it has lower injury rates than running.

Did you also know cycling can help you sleep better, it can boost your brain power and even improve your sex life?

And if all that didn’t give you good enough reasons to give cycling a go then how about it growing your social circle too? Joining a club or group is a great way to make new friends and share a common interest too.

Say hello

Do you tend to pass horse riders on your journey? Read about the scheme that has been introduced to Surrey Hills to help cyclists, horses and their riders get along

Gardening: August

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Many of you will be heading off on hols this month, but with a little bit of planning the garden can still be looking good when you get back.

For those staying at home there’s still plenty to enjoy and get on with in the garden this month. Enjoy these last few weeks of summer.

– Take cuttings of tender perennials such as pelargoniums and penstemons for flowering next year

– Keep watering, feeding and deadheading (I know I say this every month, but it’s so important)

– If we have drought conditions like last year, don’t be tempted to plant anything new until temperatures drop

– To keep rambling roses flowering and under control, thin out one in three of the oldest stems, tie in new shoots and shorten sideshoots by two thirds

– If you’re going away move pots into a shady spot and have a serious dead-heading session before you go. Ask a reliable neighbour to water whilst you’re away, particularly if it’s warm and dry

– An irrigation system on a timer is also  an effective way to keep plants watered in your absence

In the kitchen garden:

• Cordon tomatoes should be ‘stopped’ when they set four trusses outdoors, or six trusses if they’re in the greenhouse – remove the tip of the main stem two leaves above the uppermost truss so that the plant focuses its energy on fruit rather than foliage

• Plant out well rooted strawberry runners in new beds

• Cut out the old canes of summer-fruiting raspberries after fruiting, and tie in new ones

• Lift onions and shallots and dry them off before storing

• Pick herbs regularly to keep the plants productive

• Plant kale and leeks to harvest over the winter

Plants adding a splash of colour to the borders this month:

o Crocosmia ‘Paul’s Best Yellow’
o Echinops ritro ‘Veitch’s Blue’
o Gaura lindheimeri ‘Chiffon’
o Geum ‘Scarlet Tempest’
o Hydrangea aborescens ‘Annabelle’

  Call Hannah Fraser, Bloom Gardens on 07768 041929 or visit Bloom Gardens website

If you're out and about this month with children in tow

these gardens offer something for the whole family:

• Kew Gardens, London – an exciting new children’s garden opened recently, pre-booking online essential

• RHS Garden Wisley, Woking, Surrey – fabulous gardens for the grown-ups, trail and fun activities based on the Very Hungry Caterpillar for the kids

• Sir Harold Hillier Gardens, Romsey, Hants – a tree house, wooden assault course and pond dipping sessions throughout the summer, not forgetting the Centenary border which should be at it’s best around now

• Waterperry Gardens, Wheatley, Oxon – gorgeous borders and fun family trails

Kidd pro quo

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Model, racing driver, TV presenter & pub landlady Jodie Kidd, 40, tells us about life, local treasures and her foodie favourites

Q. How are you enjoying being a landlady, of the Half Moon in Kirdford? “I absolutely love it. It’s rewarding but an incredibly tough industry. The local pub is a very important part of rural life. That what the main reason I bought my pub; I’ve seen too many villages lose their pub and them turn into houses. It’s such a great loss for the community.”

Q. You’re on the Big Feastival bill this year; are you excited? “I can’t wait! Combining food and music is such a great thing and what Alex [James] is doing amazing. Raymond Blanc is going to be there. He’s always been a massive inspiration, not only for his amazing cuisine but also because of Le Manoir with its gardens; I’ve based the Half Moon, on a very small scale, on this ‘plot to plate’ model.”

Q. Where else do you enjoy eating out or a drink? “There are some really beautiful pubs along the river in Putney.”

Q. When did your love of horses start? “My love of horses started from my family who have always had horses. I grew up on a stud farm in Surrey. My father was an international showjumper and polo player, my brother is a polo player and my sister is a dressage rider. So, it’s in the blood!”

Q. Have you always been a foodie? “I was never really a foodie. It only changed when I did MasterChef and I understood the beauty of food rather than just fuel. It changed my whole outlook.”

Q. What are your favourite ingredients? “Anything grown in the pub garden and used as a herb or in a dish will evoke huge happiness in me.”

Q. Are you working harder now than ever? “It’s a very tough industry with business rates, beer tax and other things like that. The margins are small. But if you’ve got the right people around you, you can do it and it’s very different from modelling and sports! I’m running a team now instead of doing things by myself; that’s been the real difference!”

Q. Is there anything you don’t eat? And couldn’t live without? “I don’t eat Brussels sprouts and I have an obsession with wine!”

Q. What do you drive? “A BMW I8 Roadster & X5.”

Q. What’s your favourite book, film, piece of music and artist? “Shantaram [by Gregory David Roberts], The Shawshank Redemption, The Pearl Fishers Duet and Picasso.”

Big Feastival:

Jodie Kidd is one of the stars at The Big Feastival in Kingham, Oxfordshire, 23rd-25th August. See below for tickets & details.