Free festival fun down by the riverside in Charlbury
Head down to the river this weekend for free family fun in Charlbury at the ever-popular Riverside Festival.
Held on the banks of the Evenlode, it has grown over the past 24 years, attracting thousands of music lovers who this year will be able to enjoy the US rock band The Pixies among many others. For youngsters there will be free pixie fun activities to join in.
There’s a packed programme of music on Saturday 20th and Sunday 21st with more than 40 acts playing across four stages – rock, indie, jazz, and folk on the main two stages and all sorts on the Fringe and Buskers stages!
Headlining the main stage on Saturday is four-piece Oxford band Kanadia. Their big and bold alt rock sound and impressive stage presence has won them a growing fan base in Europe and a big following across the Atlantic in Mexico, the US and Canada. Sunday headliner is popular upbeat garage punk band Self Help.
Other acts to look out for are Riverside favourites 2 Tone All Skas, The Knights of Mentis, Mighty Redox and eclectic Turkabilly band, Brickwork Lizards.
The second stage, run by independent record stores, Rapture in Witney and The Truck Store in Oxford has an impressive line-up of local bands including Peerless Pirates, Death of the Maiden and Ghosts in the Photographs.
The festival takes place in The Mill Field, Dyers Hill, Charlbury with entry opposite Charlbury railway station.
From classy garden furniture to wacky ornaments for your backyard there was no end to the inspiration on offer at Blenheim Palace Flower Show.
Some of the creative displays stopped me in my tracks and there was so much to see and learn. You need to go round at least twice to see everything.
As someone who knows nothing about flowers, I was inspired and excited to improve my garden this summer and bring in some of the more quirky ideas I saw. Succulents in household objects was a personal favourite. I saw a lot of people had purchased foxtail barley (Hordeum Jubatum) and my FOMO made me buy some too – I’m planning to build an ornamental grassy display with a variety of sizes and colours.
The Grand Floral Pavilion greeted us with an array of gorgeous colours and smells that filled the marquee. The floral carousel was a highlight, created by RHS Medal winner Mig Kimpton – impossible to pass without taking a snap.
In the National Association of Flower Arrangement Societies (NAFAS) Marquee I was expecting to be impressed and was not disappointed. The arrangements showed off their amazing talents and encouraged some to create their own at the hands-on workshop.
Their creations would have been worthy of guest speaker George Clarke who shared how his love of architecture sprouted and grew during a question and answer session on Friday, 21st June, and later presented the Best in Show award.
As with any good outdoor extravaganza, there was a fabulous Food & Drink Pavilion to tuck in to too right next to the entrance and having arrived with an empty belly, we sampled some delicious gins, fudge, olives, baclava, cheeses and more, not least the amazingl-named cheese The Drunken Monk from the Great British Cheese Company.
There were plenty of artists and designer stalls as well which caught my eye – especially UK Pet Portraits where your beloved furry friends can be made into a work of art.
A fantastic day made even better by sunshine and lots of dogs. I would definitely recommend putting it in your diary for a future visit – lovers of all things floral, home and inspirational won’t want to miss out.
Missed the flower show?
Don’t worry, we have plenty of ideas for days out this summer in your area!
Picture credit: Dijana Capan, DVision Images Picture caption: Organisers Marc Allridge and Hilary Scott
Nominate your favourites for 2019 Thames Valley Hospitality Awards.
The 2019 Thames Valley Hospitality Awards are open for nominations celebrating excellence and outstanding staff in the sector.From hotels to B&Bs, bars to restaurants, it’s time to share who you think deserves to be honoured.
In addition to last year’s categories, there are three new ones – Achiever of the Year, Wedding Venue of the Year and Outside Caterer of the Year.This is the second year of the awards and the organisers are delighted to be building on the success of last year.
Co-organiser Marc Allridge of Cherubs Floral Design said they were very excited about the new categories. He added: “We would love people from managers to brides to nominate in the Wedding Venue of the Year category. And we want to hear form all those caterers who work away behind the scenes and often don’t get recognised for their efforts – winning Outside Caterer of the Year would fix that.
“We also want to see lots of entries in Achiever of the Year – this is for a youngster who has overcome physical or mental issues to shine in the trade.”
The gala awards dinner this year is being held at the De Vere Wokefield Estate on Sunday, 28th April and hosted by leading chef Daniel Galmiche.Fellow organiser Hilary Scott encouraged entries for this year, saying: “We had so many entries in our first year it was amazing. I hope that we can get more this year now we are a bit better known. And remember if you missed out last year you can enter again.”
This year’s categories are:
Hotel of the Year sponsored by TVHA
Independent Hotel of Year sponsored by Newsquest Berkshire
Bar of the Year sponsor Matthew Clark
Restaurant of the Year
Hotel Manager of the Year sponsored by Cream Design
Front of house star sponsored by H&D Food Solutions
Back of house star sponsored by Cherubs Floral Design
Apprentice of the Year
Three new categories for 2019:
Achiever of the Year – a youngster who has overcome physical or mental issues to shine
Wedding Venue of the Year – in a competitive market who stands out for their venue, service and professionalism
Outside Caterer of the Year – in a growing market, we want to find the best
For full details and to nominate visit www.tvhawards.co.ukand don’t forget to share with us who you are nominating and why!
Phil Hall’s new fantasy action novel Wallingford Wishing Well is set in our lovely town of Wallingford.
Phil Hall, whose last book, Bangkok to Ben Nevis Backwards was quite autobiographical, has taken a different angle this time.
Wallingford Wishing Well is a fantasy action novel set locally and in the present day. Phil says it’s partially based on real-life characters (with a few fictional ones thrown in) and that the story is fast-paced enough to keep you reading until the last page.
It features various local landmarks including The Kinecroft, Wallingford Bridge, pubs The Old Post Office and The Coach and Horses and Castle Gardens. The plot is loosely based on William the Conqueror’s occupation of the town but is mainly set today. The plot includes an ancient curse as well as hijinks and skulduggery.
“With a few references to the fascinating history of Wallingford, there are plenty of twists and turns that ensure the reader never gets bored,” adds married dad-of-one Phil. “If you live here or have visited, please have a read of this 140-pager because it’s most likely you’ll recognise the overall vibe and can imagine the rest.”
It ends on a massive plot climax, and Phil hopes it might one day provide the basis for a funny short TV movie, appealing to people who enjoy quirky storylines and even quirkier characters.
Wallingford Wishing Well is stocked at Wallingford Book Shop or you can buy on Amazon.
A new exhibition by American artist Jeff Koons at Oxford’s Ashmolean Museum includes work never seen before in the UK.
A new exhibition which provokes a conversation between the artist’s work and the history of art is set to be unveiled at the Ashmolean Museum.
The work of American artist Jeff Koons, which is self-curated, will feature 17 important works, 14 of which have never been seen in the UK before.
Since Koons burst on to the contemporary art scene in the 1980s he has been described as important, subversive and controversial, consistently pushing the boundaries of contemporary art.
Director of the Ashmolean, Dr Xa Sturgis says: “In showing Jeff Koons at the Ashmolean, the world’s oldest public museum where the collections range from prehistory to the present, this exhibition will provoke a conversation between his work and the history of art and ideas with which his work engages. I am sure it will also provoke conversations among those who see it.”
Among the pieces on display will be examples from Koons’s most well-known series including Statuary, Banality, Antiquity and the most recent Gazing Ball sculptures and paintings.
His work is exhibited all over the world including at New York’s Rockfeller Center, Guggenheim Bilbao and at the Chateau de Versailles.
The Ashmolean exhibition will include important works from the 1980s with which Koons made his name with pieces such as One Ball Total Equilibrium Tank (1985); Rabbit (1986) and Ushering in Banality (1988).
It will also explore his more recent focus on the meeting of ancient and modern art which come together in his singular vision, with the highlights including Balloon Venus (Magenta) (2008-12) featuring his signature motifs of monumental scale and the mirror-polished surface which positions the viewer in the work.
Ashmolean curator Sir Norman Rosenthal says: “Putting his work in the Ashmolean – the first museum in the very heart of academia, Oxford University – we can take his experiment a step further. For those of us willing to share in his visions, Jeff Koons makes art a magical transformation.”
Jeff Koons at the Ashmolean runs from 7th February to 9th June at the John Sainsbury Exhibition Galleries. Tickets for the show cost £12.25/£11.25 concessions on the door or online.
Former Young Musician of the Year Jennifer Pike will be playing the piece that won her the title when she appears at Marlborough College.
At the age of just 12, Jennifer Pike became the youngest ever winner of the Young Musician of the Year in 2002.
Three years later she performed at the Proms and has gone on to build an international career which has included many more accolades, not least being the only classical artist to win the South Bank Show/Times Breakthrough Award.
Jennifer is passionate about helping other young people enhance their lives through music and is an ambassador for the Prince’s Trust.
You can enjoy her music on Sunday, 20th January when she takes to the stage in the Memorial Hall at the college, as part of the World Class Musicians in Marlborough series when she will perform Vaughan William’s The Lark Ascending alongside pieces by Bach and Wieniawski.
Following the redevelopment of the Memorial Hall (which Marlborough College provides as sponsors of the concert series) the town now has a state-of-the-art concert hall.
The £6.5million project retains the charm of the original design while adding contemporary touches to create a state-of-the-art facility. The acoustics received accolades after a BBC National Orchestra of Wales concert recently and with improved front of house facilities, a concert at Marlborough College will be a true treat for the senses.
Turkey is a traditional favourite but there are so many choices of meat when it comes to the festive table, and many excellent local producers
What scene depicts Christmas more traditionally than a large cooked bird being brought out to the table and carved by the head of the household?
Turkey is, of course, the popular festive choice. Tom Copas Jnr says: “Turkey is what you’re meant to have! We’ve been rearing the best turkeys in Britain for over 60 years and nothing tastes better on Christmas Day, especially knowing all the care and attention that’s gone into their welfare.” Visit www.copasturkeys.co.uk.
Walters Turkeys is a family business running since 1911 on the Yattendon Estate in the Berkshire Downs. The team are passionate about animal welfare and expert in the best way to cook and store your bird for the perfect feast; call 01635 578 251 or visit www.waltersturkeys.co.uk. Tell your butcher how many guests you have (and how greedy!) to select a bird or joint of the perfect size.
Excellent traditional alternatives to turkey include goose and duck, which are more expensive and do not give as much meat per size as a turkey. Cockerels (male chickens) clock in at about the 10lb in weight and are becoming a popular alternative to turkey. For more adventurous of home cooks there is also the three-bird roast, with a wide variety of bird breasts one inside another (such as turkey, pheasant and partridge). These have plenty of meat but need to be carefully cooked.
Hungerford butcher Christian Alba says: “In all the places I’ve worked, Christmas meat is usually turkey. But I grew up on a turkey farm, so I have beef fore rib.” Phil Currie, head chef at The Greyhound in Letcombe Regis says: “I like to use beef shin as the bone provides so much flavour which leaves you with a great sauce. For Christmas we serve it with classic bourguignon garnish and a twist with a blue cheese dumpling. It’s a great alternative to turkey.” Visit www.thegreyhoundletcombe.co.uk or call 01235 771969.
Jesse Smith Butcher & W.J Castle in Cirencester has a unique dry-aging process for its beef featuring a room lined with Himalayan salt bricks. The company, which goes back for several generations, are passionate about animal husbandry and welfare and also offer the very finest poultry, game, pork and lamb for the well-stocked Christmas larder; visit www.jessesmith.co.uk or call 01285 653352.
Recipe queen Lyn Deveson says: “I’ve always cooked turkey and a gammon; cold turkey, ham, turkey curried, stir fried, in sandwiches is a big part of the appeal. But I cooked a cockerel last Christmas and won’t go back to turkey – it has more flavour. I remember my mother cooking the turkey all night on a low heat but the French way is best; higher heat and less time. People complain it can be dry but if cooked properly, it isn’t. Good gravy makes all the difference, too!
“I also remember my mother cooking the turkey all night on a low heat, but the French way is best – higher heat and less time. People complain it can be dry but if cooked properly, it isn’t. Traditionally we cook turkey, stuffing, bread sauce, sausages wrapped in bacon etc. with the head male at the top of the table, carving! That’s the picture we all have in our heads and everyone wearing paper hats and pulling crackers! Because turkey meat can be quite bland, you can go to town with the other flavours. A good gravy makes the difference and thanks to chefs such as Jamie Oliver, we are learning that Bisto is not the essential ingredient but I am shocked by the number of English who still use it! The trouble is we are so spoilt nowadays and can eat anything any time of the year, so Christmas lunch or dinner isn’t such a treat as it used to be.”
Enter our competition for a Christmas In A Box foodie hamper – including a 6kg turkey!
Gin is enjoying a resurgence in popularity, with a wealth of interesting spirits produced right here on our doorstep. We chat to some of the enthusiastic local producers and offer up our favourite tipples!
History of gin
Gin may be one of the most popular liquors in the country, yet the colourless spirit has had to contend with a chequered history since it first landed on these shores more than 300 years ago.
Originally gin was sold as a medicine, distilled and supposedly capable of aiding kidney ailments, gallstones and gout after Dutch physician Franciscus Sylvius created genever. Brits were first introduced to it when the English soldiers assisted the Dutch against the Spanish in Antwerp during the late 16th century during the Eighty Years’ War.
The armies were known to drink genever before heading into battle, and it’s thought to be the origin of the phrase “Dutch courage”. William of Orange then arrived here to rule in 1688 and promptly relaxed laws on making spirits. Gin, which starts with a base of juniper berries, gained in popularity – among all classes – with the upper classes drinking genever and the working classes making do with a new, cheaper “imitation” gin, substituting the costly ingredients with such things as turpentine and sulphuric acid.
Subsequently, gin’s reputation took a turn for the worse. In London alone, more than 7,000 “dram shops” sprang up with an estimated 10 million gallons being distilled annually by barbers, grocers and market stall holders. Gin became increasingly cheap to produce, easily accessible, little duty was paid on it and some workers were even given it as part of their wages. The 1736 Gin Act forced anyone wishing to sell distilled spirits to take out a licence costing £50.
Only three such licences were taken, but gin’s popularity did not wane as “mother’s ruin” remained hugely popular, before a second act was passed in 1751, which raised duty, and prohibited distillers, grocers, chandlers, jails and workhouses from selling the liquor.
Thankfully this was the low point for gin and the spirit has rebuilt its once-tarnished reputation to become the UK’s most popular alcoholic drink. “We’re spoilt for choice with local gins here in the in Thames Valley” says Catriona Galbraith of The Greyhound in Letcombe Regis. “Our favourite is the TOAD Oxford Dry Gin, a delicious citrus and aromatic combination or the kaffir lime and lemongrass gin from Twisting Spirits, as exotic as it sounds with a hint of Asian spice notes. “We like to serve our gins simply, with either a favourite tonic from the Fevertree range and garnish such as lemon, lime, orange, cucumber, mint or basil or even neat over ice, to allow the real complex botanical flavours to come through.”
Hobbs of Henley
“There’s nothing more marvellous than a gin at 11 o’clock on the river to wake the spirits…” Indeed, back in 1870, Mr Harry Hobbs, founder of Hobbs and Sons (now Hobbs of Henley) and publican of The Ship Hotel was renowned for his flamboyant beard and nature, often seen in his punt sipping his home-distilled gin of a morning. Mr Hobbs threw parties along the riverbanks, hiring out his boats for shindigs. Now, 150 years later the family’s gin is made with local botanicals.
Cotswold Distillery uses local raw materials, traditional kit and techniques to create its handmade gin. There’s a 500-litre pot still, (only filled ¾ full to make sure the vapours get contact with the copper during distillation).
Distilled with nine carefully considered botanicals, the Cotswolds Dry Gin has an aromatic twist of juniper, coriander seed, angelica root, local lavender, bay leaf, hand-peeled fresh lime and pink grapefruit zest, cardamom and black peppercorn. The distillery building itself is a miniature version of what is usually an enormous plant and the shop and tasting rooms are more like a cosy Cotswolds cottage – you can sit by the wood burner to sip their outstanding natural spirits.
“The use of British fruit combined with traditional recipes is what makes our fruit gin so quaffable,” says Nick Radclyffe of Foxdenton Estate. “There is nothing better as the nights draw in than the warming tipple of a fruit gin cocktail such as the Ping Pong.” Foxdenton Estate creates gin liqueurs with plums, sloes and damsons using recipes that date back several generations with father and son gin producers, Nick and Piers, choosing the traditional tipples they know and love. Sloe Gin, 70cl £24.50.
Celia Stone finds out more about John Ward, the blacksmith of Donkeywell Forge in Quenington
John Ward is not only keeping alive the skills of craftsmen, he is also interesting young people to take up and maintain its traditions, by from time to time recruiting new apprentices.
Very few villages have their own forge these days – as they also no longer have a post office, local shop or their own school. Quenington’s forge however differs in its line of work from those of older times, which carried out mainly farriery and the casual odd job of repairs to metalwork.
Although John Ward still carries out farriery, his main occupation is in blacksmithing and creating decorative architectural ironwork. This includes for churches, for private individuals, and at prestigious locations such as Buscot Park, working for the National Trust.
John, who has been at his current base for about eight years, followed an apprenticeship in February at the start of his career, but has always had an interest in the blacksmithing aspect and he now specialises in this.
People walking through the village of Ampney St Peter will be able to admire the new gates he has made for the entrance, and those who attend services at Compton Abdale will be able to have a safe passage up the steep and winding path to St Oswald’s Church with the aid of the handrail which the forge has made.
John works with architects and designers. A recent commission on which he has been working this year is four chandeliers to hang in a new wedding venue at Bolton Abbey, a stately home in Yorkshire.
The chandeliers are described by John as ‘gigantic’, measuring two metres high and two to three metres across. He expected the whole project to take about three months to complete.
Originally from Bristol, he started out in welding and fabricating, then having always had an interest in horses he started at the age of 22 his four-year apprenticeship in farriery, at the town forge in Malmesbury.
This was to stand him in good stead later in his career, when he was doing work for racehorse trainers. He shod a winner of each of steeplechasings most high-profile races, the Cheltenham Gold Cup and the Grand National. His Grand National winner was a horse named “Don’t Push It”.
But while farriery was his main focus during his apprenticeship, he also followed in his own time his interest in blacksmithing.
At the age of 27 he was able to start his own business which in this year of 2018 celebrates its 21st anniversary. He initially based the business in a workshop in Coln St Aldwyn, there concentrating on blacksmithing.
He moved to Quenington about eight years ago, to Donkeywell Farm, which is owned by the Ernest Cook Trust, a well-known supporter of the continuation of traditional skills and crafts.
John has a staff of four, plus apprentices. This is very much a family business, with his wife Fiona dealing with the secretarial side and their two sons and their daughter enjoying helping out after school and at weekends.
John takes satisfaction not only in the creation of his ironwork, but in seeing it in its new setting.
Once a project has been completed, he and his team carry out all the installations themselves. “I like new gates to settle in looking as if they have always been there,” he says.” If a client says that this is how they appear, then we have succeeded,” he says.
“The greatest thing is to make sure that we are proud of what we are making.”
Kevin Leivers of The Naked Pharmacy explains how parents can help boost children’s mental health to cope with their learning journey at school
September summons our youngsters back to school, college and university. Increased screen time, pressure to succeed and the inability to switch off can tip the nervous system into permanent “sympathetic nervous system” mode. This is the “fight or flight” mode the body originally evolved as a mechanism to protect us from imminent danger. The anxiety response in the brain causes a cascade of hormones with wide-ranging effects such as shortness of breath, a racing heart, paling or flushing of the face, sweaty hands… The list goes on and, if left unchecked, may lead to more regular and extreme symptoms.
Youngsters who suffer from anxiety may feel abnormal and isolated. Depression is deeply personal and masks itself in varied symptoms. Research by the World Health Organisation (WHO) shows that perhaps the most effective treatment is personal empowerment of the sufferer’s own treatment. This means that they can learn to recognise and manage their symptoms, assisted by their parents.
Finding the tools that work for the individual is key to success. A regular exercise routine is both physically and mentally beneficial for health, especially within a group or team which will help reduce isolation. Regular sleep and a bedtime routine is very important, so turn off all blue light-emitting devices, avoid late food or drink (give at least two hours to digest) and avoid caffeine and sugary drinks after 1pm. Encourage children to express themselves by drawing or writing; it’s such a beautiful tool as an outlet to release thoughts.
Correct breathing is also vital. The hormonal cascade during an anxiety response causes us to shallow breathe and suck in more air than we breathe out, making panic worse.
Tony Ulatowski has used “The Big Breath” with more than 400 students in London, from pre-schoolers to secondary students, for the last year and received overwhelmingly positive feedback from parents, teachers and pupils. He says: “One of the teachers told of a four-year-old girl with anger issues who’s learnt to take herself away, regulate her emotions and just two or three of the big breaths help her feel better.”
A healthy diet including “live” foods, vegetables and fruits is hugely helpful; 90% of serotonin is produced in the gut. A study from New Zealand in 2017 found depressed patients significantly improved on a modified Mediterranean diet. There are also some natural supplements which are safe, effective, non-addictive and adaptogenic that provide an evidence-based approach for mood imbalance and anxiety in children and teenagers. One of the most widely tested is the ancient spice saffron. Saffron targets the gut as well as the brain.
Dr Paul Clayton, Fellow at The Institute of Food, Brain and Behaviour, believes saffron should be considered in place of current therapies. He says: “By targeting core aspects of mood and anxiety, saffron works far more rapidly than the pharmaceuticals, which shoot at the wrong target. Saffron restores normal nerve function; if you have chronic inflammation, the “brakes” are put on a few key processes. Moreover, it acts very fast (hours, not weeks or months), has no withdrawal symptoms, no side effects, and is safe to use with children.”
1 In the UK 16 million people experience mental illness. 2 Three out of four mental illnesses start before the age of 18. 3 10% of school children have a diagnosable mental illness. 4 Three out of four young people with mental illness are not receiving treatment. 5 The average wait for effective treatment is 10 years. 6 Suicide is still the biggest killer of young people in the UK. 7 People with severe mental illness die 10-20 years earlier than the general population.
The Boost! School of Acting team believe taking part in drama-based group activities can help develop social skills and reduce anxiety. They offer Saturday morning lessons in Oxfordshire for 4-6-year-olds and 7-10-year olds in Clifton Hampden and Monday morning sessions for pre-schoolers in Didcot. They also want to start a new group for teenagers – parents and teens themselves who might be interested, please get in touch! Visit www.boost-drama.co.uk