Big Wild Weekend

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Community & Charity

Celebrate the summer solstice and Big Wild Weekend by getting closer to nature with the Wildlife Trusts from today (19th) to Sunday (21st).

As part of Surrey Wildlife Trust’s 30 Days Wild campaign, you can enjoy an evening of music hosted by Radio 1 DJ Cel Spellman and special guests, have your very own summer sleep-out under the stars and join the Big Wild Quiz.

The weekend will be kicked off with actor & Radio 1 DJ Cel Spellman, and special guests including KT Tunstall, Sophie Ellis-Bextor. More special guests stars to be announced on The Wildlife Trust’s Youtube channel.

On Saturday 20th people can take part by setting up a tent or hammock in the back garden or building a den in the living room. Try your hand at making moth traps, do some night-time wildlife watching and sleep under the stars on this special night, celebrating Surrey’s natural world and the longest day of the year. There will be prizes from Cotswold Outdoor, Learning Resources UK and Jordans Cereals for the best dens and camps.

The Big Wild Quiz on Sunday 21st will be hosted live by The Wildlife Trusts ambassador Sophie Pavelle and actor and podcast ‘Trees a Crowd’ host David Oakes on its Facebook page, with special appearances from the likes of Liz Bonnin. So get ready for four rounds of fun questions on nature, movies/books/TV, music and nature photos.

Jo Foat, communications officer at Surrey Wildlife Trust, said it offers something different for the weekend: “Every year for 30 Days Wild, we hold a Big Wild Weekend with hands on events and open days. We’ve adapted it this year so that everyone can still join in from home in whatever way they can. With music, events and activities to enjoy online, families can get involved and even enjoy a wild sleep out in a tent outside or an indoor den. So get back to nature, sleep under the stars, listen to the wildlife around you and wake up to a magnificent dawn chorus.”

Take part

To join in with the Big Wild Weekend see website and on social media.

Online auction

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Community & Charity

The Hampshire Country & Garden Festival is running an online auction from Thursday 11th to Sunday, 14th June offering virtual entertainment while raising money for the Hampshire Medical Fund.

The unique event is in place of the annual festival at Bere Mill, which had to be postponed to 2021.

The auction aims to celebrate and promote all that is great about Hampshire, while also raising funds for equipment in a new revolutionary Gynaecology Clinic in Winchester NHS Hospital.

To take part in the auction visit https://givergy.uk/hampshirecountryandgardenfestival where you will find some fabulous prizes including a classic York Commemorative solid teak garden bench by Chic Teak with the option of having a carved inscription on the back.

Other auction items include a case of Chalk Down cider, a delivery of wildflower turf to cover a 40 square metre area, an evening fishing on the River Test with a picnic supper and a delivery of fully prepared lamb supplied from the Bere Mill Estate.

A full list of prizes and info on how to place a bid are available on the festival website www.hampshiregardenfestival.co.uk.

Chic Teak will also donate 10% of all sales of luxury furniture made during the auction weekend (13th and 14th June) to the Festival fundraising cause; click here to shop https://chic-teak.co.uk/

While the Festival itself cannot go ahead as planned this year, the festival committee have been able to continue their work to support patients and staff by creating two unique gardens for the following deserving Hampshire causes.

Louisa Corbett, who designed several RHS Chelsea Flower Show gardens, is creating a garden for Melbury Lodge the inpatient Mother and Baby Unit, treating women in perinatal mental health crisis in Winchester, where a relaxing outdoor area is desperately needed.

Jez Stamp and Lou Jameson of garden design company JamesonStamp, are creating a garden for Firvale childrens’ respite centre in Basingstoke, which helps children with complex health issues or behavioural problems.

Jez and Lou said: “We are fully aware first-hand of the solace and stimulation that gardening brings. Having been inspired by the work undertaken by the team at Firvale, we feel honoured to help enrich its outdoor space.

“We aim to lift the spirits of those that set eyes on the initial façade at Firvale and in turn inform a space that engages a multitude of senses. Bright colours and bold textures will be paramount and we welcome the opportunity to use them.”

This garden is available for sponsorship (interested companies should contact Sarah-Jane Shirreff at [email protected]

Annabel Humphrey, committee member for the Hampshire Country and Garden Festival, said: “The last few months have been very difficult for everyone and we were very disappointed to have to cancel this year’s festival. The online auction is a great way for us to bring all the wonderful people involved in the Festival together to provide some virtual entertainment while continuing our pledge to raise money for the Hampshire Medical Fund.”

She added: “We’re also very pleased to be able to fulfil our aim to create the two gardens for Melbury Lodge and Firvale clinics and work on the gardens will start this year. We look forward to welcoming everyone back to the Festival in 2021.”

Take part

To take part in the auction visit

Could you help Citizens Advice?

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Community & Charity

The dedication of staff and volunteers at local charity Citizens Advice Oxfordshire South and Vale has allowed it to continue giving advice to those in need at this time.

The team rallied to ensure as many people as possible could be helped over the phone or through webchat. Two weeks into the lockdown, 70 volunteer advisers were operating the Advice Line service from their homes.

As part of Volunteers’ Week, which runs from June 1st to 7th, Citizens Advice Oxfordshire South and Vale wants to thank its 150 volunteers for their contribution not only during this exceptional time but throughout the year. Between them they contribute more than 1,000 hours to helping people each week.

In the last year it has helped over 11,000 people with problems such as debt, housing, benefit and employment issues.

Volunteer Virginia Parker, a specialist benefits adviser in the Abingdon office, said: “I get enormous pleasure in helping people in difficult circumstances to understand and get what they are entitled to.

“It can be very daunting to ask for help, so we do our best to put people at ease and help them through the process. There is nothing more rewarding than helping people to resolve their problems so they can move ahead with their lives.”

Jon Bright, chief officer at South and Vale, said: “Throughout the year our wonderful volunteers contribute their time and energy to make a huge difference to people’s lives and help keep our vital service running. We couldn’t do it without them.”

Want to volunteer?

If you are interested in finding out more about volunteering with Citizens Advice Oxfordshire South and Vale, please visit their website

GladRags Project

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Community & Charity

West Horsley Place is inviting members of the local community to help create an artwork that explores ‘what makes us glad right now’.

Devised by local artist Diana Burch in response to the coronavirus pandemic, the GladRags project asks people, including children, to create a small patchwork square that captures ‘what makes you feel glad’. Everyone is invited to take part, making use of what can be found at home, from rags to remnants.

Once the current lockdown has been lifted, these patchwork squares will be collected by West Horsley Place and brought together to make a large artwork that will be a record of how the community came through this extraordinary time.

Launched in Haslemere in partnership with Haslemere Museum, the GladRags project is now being rolled out across Surrey. West Horsley Place is delighted to be helping residents of Guildford and the surrounding area to take part.

Diana Burch said: “Coronavirus is a huge event in human history. The GladRags project wants to step in as history is made and provide a community record of how we came through isolation and learned to value the little things, the things that make us glad right now.

“Creativity is a wonderful way to relax, focus and build self-esteem – and is very much needed at the current time. Every square will be welcomed – regardless of classic needlework skills!

“I want to thank the cultural hubs and museums that are enabling this project to take place. When this is all over, we can all get together to celebrate creativity and community spirit once more.”

Clare Clinton, Operations Manager at West Horsley Place, adds: “We are delighted to be taking part in the GladRags project with our local community. By reflecting on what makes us glad despite this difficult time we will create a patchwork that will be a celebration of our community’s resilience.

“We were so looking forward to opening the doors of West Horsley Place this spring. Although this has been delayed as a result of the coronavirus pandemic, our charity remains committed to creating here a welcoming space for the community to share and enjoy with arts, culture, community, history and nature at its heart.

“Until we can be together, we look forward to seeing pictures of your wonderful patchworks which we will share for everyone to enjoy.”

How to Take Part

Participants are asked to create a 15cm square, with a small extra allowance for a border so that the patchworks can be stitched together, using any material available. This might be a remnant, an odd sock – or a rag. Decorate the square to reflect ‘what makes you feel glad’ using thread, glue, buttons and bits and bobs accessible at this time.

For participants who would like to share their patchworks now, please email a photograph to [email protected] Photos will be shared on the West Horsley Place website and through the charity’s social media channels.

For further information visit

Vital advice for the elderly

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Community & Charity

The Coronavirus Pandemic has changed life for everyone and Age UK Surrey are aware older people are some of the hardest hit.

As a local community-based charity Age UK Surrey has set up two new services: Emergency Shopping and a Check in and Chat Call.

They have been able to deliver these services by re-deploying staff to co-ordinate, and recruiting volunteers who have stepped forward to help.

Emergency shopping service

This is a free service and available to older people who are not able to access online food deliveries or go to the shops because they are staying home to keep safe. The Emergency Shopping service is for people who need essential items. They can also help with collecting prescriptions and match people who need support with a volunteer who lives nearby.

For more information about the service, or to volunteer please telephone or email, details below.

Check in & chat call

Age UK Surrey has had to temporarily stop face-to-face home visiting Befriending service at this time in Waverley, Guildford, Runnymede and Spelthorne, they are now offering a new telephone service – Check in and Chat – to people across Surrey. One of the best ways of helping someone during this unsettling time is by just keeping in touch. They are able to offer this service through the support of volunteers, who are matched with people who would like to chat.

Getting online

Staying home and staying safe has given rise to lots of new initiatives and ways to virtually access shows, art collections, nature and open spaces – all from the comfort of your home! Age UK Surrey’s Men in Sheds and Haslemere Lunch Club are offering online ways to connect and our Falls Prevention Class teacher has recorded her exercises for everyone to share. If you need digital help to take advantage of this online surge our computer drop-in volunteers are offering a free telephone service arranged at a time and day that is mutually convenient. Whatever your question, there will be a volunteer who can help.

Information & advice

Age UK Surrey have been delivering a free and confidential information and advice service to the community for over 20 years. Although they have been experiencing higher call volumes than usual, they would like to assure you they continue to be here to support you and have a team of experienced advisers.

Help at Home service

The Help at Home team continues to support existing clients who cannot carry out essential tasks in their homes such as cleaning hygiene areas, changing the bed and shopping. Age UK Surrey are also providing support to new enquirers for shopping using our many Home Helps across the county. Home Helps are self employed and instructed to observe Government guidelines during the coronavirus.

Help at home service

Age UK Surrey are currently working remotely so please leave an answerphone message and they will return your call as soon as possible. Remember to leave your name, telephone number, where you live and the nature of your enquiry. You can also email [email protected] or call 01483 503414, open from Monday to Friday, 9am – 4.45pm.

Looking on the Bright Side

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Community & Charity

Sing along and smile with Farnham group in aid of Phyllis Tuckwell Hospice

Always Look on the Bright Side of Life couldn’t be more apt for the times we are living in with the promise of better days in the not-too-far-distant future.

We all need a bit of cheering up, and Farnham’s Phyllis Tuckwell Hospice has been starved of essential funds since scores of fundraising events were cancelled to comply with social distancing advice.

FAOS Musical Theatre Group has found a way to raise both our spirits and some money for the hospice and they invite you be their guests and take a front row seat at their virtual performance of Always Look on the Bright Side of Life.

Business manager Nigel Morley said: “Most importantly, if you enjoy the performance, please show your appreciation not to us but at our JustGiving page for the Hospice. You can get there by clicking here

Watch FAOS Musical Theatre Group’s entertaining performance below

Don’t forget to sing along!

Save music venues campaign

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Community & Charity

A new national campaign has been launched by Music Venue Trust to save hundreds of grassroots music venues at imminent risk of being closed down – permanently.

Without these independent venues the live music scene in the UK will die. These grassroots venues play a crucial role in the development of British music, nurturing local talent, providing a platform for artists to build their careers and develop their music and their performance skills. These venues also play a vital role in the cultural and economic vibrancy of any village, town or city.

Currently 556 venues are at risk including The Northcourt Centre, Abingdon; The Boileroom, Guildford and the Fiery Bird, Woking.

Artists will be performing ‘at home’ gigs in support of their local venues, chosen from a list of venues currently in crisis which can be found at the campaign website www.saveourvenues.co.uk.

Each venue will have their own fundraising page with a clear target of the funds it needs to raise to stay afloat throughout this difficult period. Once a target is reached any excess revenue will go to the central #saveourvenues fund to help the wider grassroots music venue community.

HOW CAN MUSIC FANS GET INVOLVED?

1. Donate to a specific venue’s fundraising page by clicking this link www.saveourvenues.co.uk to see a list of local venues that urgently need help.

2. Watch ‘at home’ shows by artists supporting the #saveourvenues campaign. Click here www.saveourvenues.co.uk to see a list of shows coming up.

3. Donate to the national #saveourvenues fund via the website www.saveourvenues.co.uk

4. Help spread the word on social media using the hashtag #saveourvenues and the campaign link www.saveourvenues.co.uk.

One of the main drivers of this initiative is the musician Frank Turner whose recent series of ‘Independent Venue Love’ shows for local venues raised thousands of pounds and provided a major inspiration for this campaign.

Turner said: “The UK live music industry is staring into the abyss right now. I’m not able to save the whole thing on my own, but I decided to do a series of livestream shows to raise money for specific independent venues that I know and love, and that are in serious risk of disappearing right now. The success of these shows demonstrated the love that exists between music fans and their favourite grassroots music venues so the #saveourvenues campaign is a brilliant way of building on that and hopefully giving artists and music fans a chance to get involved and play a big part in helping them survive.”

Music Venue Trust’s CEO Mark Davyd said: “Without the support of music fans and artists literally hundreds of the UK’s grassroots music venues could go out of business, never to return, in the coming months. Please help to save every single grassroots music venue in the UK so that it can reopen after this crisis and continue to be a home to our musicians and our communities.”

To find out more

RBC road markings

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Community & Charity

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

2.6 Challenge

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Community & Charity

Thousands of you should no doubt have been running in the London Marathon tomorrow, Sunday, 26th April, and aside from the personal disappointment, charities large and small will miss out on the millions the annual event raises.

The Virgin Money London Marathon is the world’s biggest one-day fundraising event, raising more than £66.4 million for thousands of charities in 2019.

Many of these charities have had to reduce or stop services at a time when vulnerable members of society need them most; thousands of staff have been placed on furlough and many charities will not survive the next few months.

The 2.6 Challenge has been set up to help save the UK’s charities and you don’t need to be a runner to take part.

All you need to do is dream up an activity based around the numbers 2.6 or 26 that suits your skills and complete it on Sunday, 26th April – when the 40th London Marathon would have taken place.

The 2.6 Challenge can be any activity you like – from running 2.6 miles to holding an online workout with 26 of your friends.

Whatever your age or ability, you can take part – it’s not just for superheroes but for home heroes.

Choose your #TwoPointSixChallenge, head to the ‘donate or fundraise’ buttons on the website to save your chosen charity, then complete your challenge.

Whether you’re running around the balcony for 2.6 miles, doing 26 press-ups with the dog on your back or bench-pressing 26 kilos with your grandchildren, your help to save the UK’s charities which have all been affected by the impact of the coronavirus.

Do your bit

Help to inspire the nation by sharing pictures or videos of your challenge on social media using the official hashtag #TwoPointSixChallenge to be part of the campaign.

Town and Gown

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Community & Charity

Muscular Dystrophy UK is inviting the 6,000 plus runners who annually sign up to Oxford Town and Gown to safely run, jog or walk at home in this year’s virtual event for the famous race now in its 39th year. 

Inspired by people running marathons in their gardens and driveways, registrations are open for this year’s race – taking place from now until 6th May.

People like Adam Smith who had signed up to do an amazing four laps of this year’s Town and Gown 10k are leading the way by registering their own version of a ‘Lockdown Run.’

Race Director at Muscular Dystrophy UK Jessie Keighley said: “The beauty of a ‘virtual’ race is that we’re no longer tied to one location. So, if you know of friends and family up and down the country who would like to join in then get them to register here

“We need your help now even more than ever. Coronavirus has left us battling to fill a £2.8m gap in our funding from lost events just at the moment when the people we help are in real need of our support.”

Anyone who has already registered to run the Oxford Town and Gown will receive a link inviting them to register free for the virtual event and this will explain the process of taking part.

Once people have completed the event, they can log back into their race nation account and upload the date and time they took part as a ‘proof’. As soon as our offices re-open they’ll be sent a well-deserved medal.

How to take part

For more information and to register to take part online