Helping addicts recover

Round & About


Henley resident launches a new service on Friday, 31st August, to support people in recovery from drug and alcohol addiction

Towards Recovery receiving National Lottery funding: (l-r) Huseyin Djemil, Shelly Djemil and Jasmine Plowright

Towards Recovery is a new Community Interest Company (CIC) based in Henley developed to support people to initiate and sustain recovery from drug and alcohol addiction, including supporting families, friends and any professionals in contact with them.

This family initiative was launched by Henley resident Huseyin Djemil who has more than 18 years experience specialising in the criminal justice / drug treatment sector.

Huseyin underwent residential rehabilitation for class A drug use in 1986. After recovery he took on various roles within the government and not for profit sector, eventually developing a consulting business with the simple aim of improving the condition for addict, their recovery, and therefore improving the lives of the people around them.

Huseyin now works with an extensive range of UK and International charities, social enterprises, private and public sector organisations, central government departments, universities and local authorities.

Huseyin says: “Many people know what addiction looks like, we want to show people what life in recovery is like. We know that a life in recovery is possible as we are living proof of it, we know that people can go on to become responsible citizens and an asset to their community again. We help people by identifying their skills and abilities and building their support network, we know that this strengthens a persons recovery journey and gives them the best chance to succeed. We are here to help people who need the support themselves or family members looking for guidance.”

His project, Towards Recovery, has created a positive impact and the service has received National Lottery funding. With this support, Huseyin is launching a new service to his local community this Friday, 31st August in Henley, between  7-10pm.

This is an open invitation – no registration needed, turn up on the night where food and refreshments will be available all evening.

Towards Recovery’s open invitation launch is on Friday, 31st August. It’s free to attend, with full information here or on Facebook

Special say

Round & About


Are you parents to a child with SEND (special educational needs and/or disabilities) in Oxfordshire?

As a parent of a child with SEND, you might not consider yourself an expert but you have knowledge and experience to share.

You already know how stressful going into school to hear about your child’s progress can be. You already know how hard keeping up with the changing jargon in education can be. You already know it would be so much easier if you had someone at the meeting with you to take notes so you could be clear what was being said or what has been agreed. You already know how having the chance to talk things through beforehand with someone who is good at listening could make all the difference. You already know how it could help to have someone you feel understands by your side in the meeting to help you and everyone else there focus on what’s best for your child.

Perhaps you are at the stage when you feel able to use your knowledge and experience to support another parent in this way?

All you need is:
• Some spare time.
• To be a good listener and someone who sees things through.
• To be easily contactable.

This doesn’t require a regular commitment; you get to decide how much time you can offer. SENDIASS (Special Educational Needs and Disabilities Information Advice and Support Service) provides training to help you discover how much you already know and fill in the gaps. You won’t be thrown in at the deep end! All expenses are paid. Time to put all that hard earned knowledge to good use?

For details please call 01865 810516 or email

Young minds

Liz Nicholls


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.”

Visit or email or call 01483 685630.

Did you know?

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.

Acting up

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

London calling

Liz Nicholls


We asked Merlin Labron Johnson, star chef at London’s Portland and The Conduit, his kitchen titbits ahead of his appearance, with many more talents, at The Big Feastival

Q: What is your favourite kitchen gadget – one that you couldn’t live without?
“My microplane – because I love covering dishes with a fine grating of something!”

Q. What’s your favourite summer/al fresco dish?
“Tomatoes, raspberries, basil and good olive oil.”

Q. Do you have a favourite pub/restaurant for a summer visit and why?
“My favourite place to eat is 40 Maltby St in Bermondsey, London. I love their wine list and deceptively simple dishes, all executed to absolute perfection on mismatched crockery.”

Q. Do you have a favourite supplier/producer/farm shop and why?
“I’m a big fan of OrganicLea, a workers’ co-operative growing food on London’s edge in the Lea Valley. Their produce is incredible and their vision is noble – working to create just production and trading systems that provide fair incomes to food producers and guarantee the rights of communities to access healthy and nutritious food produced using ecologically sound and sustainable methods.”

Q. What’s your favourite British summer fruit/veg? And drink? “Strawberries and the green asparagus from OrganicLea farm was incredible this year. Elderflower soda is definitely my favourite summer drink.”

Pitch in for Wychwood Forest Fair

Round & About


One word sums up Wychwood Forest Fair, on Sunday, 2nd September, and that’s the word ‘local’. They are looking for local talent, could you pitch in?

Wychwood forest fair

Everything, including food, farm produce, arts and crafts, the trade stands and even rural craftsmen and women: are all local, for the Wychwood Forest Fair, on Sunday, 2nd September, from 11am until 5pm in Lodge Farm, Ditchley, off the B4437,

Typical activities on the day include displays by the Wychwood Project, the Wychwood Barn Owl and Flora groups, and many other local conservation and community groups. A wide range of rural crafts, some of which allow you to ‘have a go’, are on display. The Wychwood Project second-hand book stall is a must for book-lovers.

As well as an arts and crafts tent, there is local Hatwells children’s Fun Fair,  local Morris dancing sides, Witney Town Band, a horse logging demonstration and fun family dog show and other entertainers. There are plenty of local food suppliers and farm produce, lots of refreshments, locally produced ice cream and a beer tent selling beer from the local Wychwood Brewery, based in Witney.

Finally, the Wychwood Forest Fair is looking for local volunteers. If you can give a couple of hours to help with any of the following it would be hugely appreciated:

  • Bar servers – you will need some experience for this.  One hour slots available throughout the day.
  • Grand draw ticket sellers – not a hard sell, people are usually very willing to buy.  Must be over 18 please.
  • Wychwood Project membership table – helping people to complete the membership form, talking enthusiastically about the project.
  • Marshall/s for the Breckon & Breckon marquee during set up – to ensures that all the stall holders know where their pitch is.

Full instructions for any volunteering role will be provided along with a voucher for a tea/coffee and cake from the Wychwood Project tea tent.

If you feel you can enjoy the day and spend a few hours helping, then call 07584 262437 or email: or visit

Make believe

Round & About


Susannah Steel traverses rooftops and rainforests with prize-winning author Katherine Rundell to explore children’s literature and her inspiration

Children’s literature is that most imaginative, immersive, shape-shifting, character-building collection of written words. For many, it conjures images of wardrobes, wizarding schools and midnight gardens…

But what does it take to write? To create something so captivating, so fantastically unbelievable that your reader has no choice but to believe… So synonymous with them that they need only see a rabbit with a watch to know they’re in Wonderland?

Having lived in many countries, Katherine Rundell brings a wealth of experience and an original spirit of character and adventure to her books. Indeed, for her most recent novel, The Explorer (about four children whose plane crash-lands in the Amazon rainforest), she went on a research trip to South America. “I swam with pink wild river dolphins, captured tarantulas and fished for piranha, and then I put it all in the book,” she says.

This pursuit of authentic experience highlights the importance of storytelling in giving vicarious experience. Isy Mead, head of learning and participation at The Story Museum in Oxford agrees: “Children’s literature occupies a fundamental role in the formation of the imagination, as well as compassion, humour and perspective.” Katherine adds: “It’s true there are more alternatives to reading, but books still do something nothing else can – they give you another world you can know in an intimate, blood-deep, behind-the-eyes way.”

Whether writing about the African landscape, the strict corridors of a boarding school, Russian forests under inches of snow or the rooftops of Paris, Katherine brings a magical, poetic and vividly original flair to her characters. They include a refreshing collection of strong female protagonists. However, Katherine says, she did not set out to consciously redress this imbalance…

“They were the characters I had in my head; I loved them, and I wanted to see if I could make them fly. In fact my most recent book has a boy protagonist, Fred – but I fervently believe boys must be shown they can read books with girls in them as readily as girls read books with boys; it’s absurd that the old prejudice still has pincers in.”

Was writing always Katherine’s calling? “It was! I can’t remember a time when I didn’t want to be a writer. I wanted to be other things along the way – architect, archaeologist, acrobat, pilot… But writing was the one that stayed at the centre.”

I wonder whether Katherine has been influenced by past children’s classics and fairy tales and, if so, which? “I’m sure I must be – I loved the dream of finding Narnia, I loved Paddington’s kindness, I loved the dry wit of E Nesbit. I loved Cinderella; but the 500-year-old, pre-Disney versions, in which Cinderella murders the wicked stepmother by chopping off her head with the lid of a trunk!”

Katherine’s stories usually include a journey, physical or emotional. What is it about a “journey” that so appeals to readers? “We love transformation, whether it be of a person or a landscape,” she says. “And I do love a good packing scene!” And her stories are not without sadness…“My reckoning is life is as difficult as it is beautiful, and all books worth their salt will acknowledge this, one way or another.”

Her characters are often aided by strong friendships. I ask her; Is the loyalty of friendship something she’s keen to explore? “Yes! I think friendships in fiction, particularly boy-girl friendships, can get sidelined by romantic plots, and I was keen to look at what friendship is made of – at that particular blend of admiration, love, trust, exasperation, and shared jokes that can shape your entire childhood, if you’re lucky.”

As for Katherine’s other characters, Sophie (Rooftoppers) loves to climb, Feo (The Wolf Wilder) plays with wolves and Will runs barefoot in the African landscape (The Girl Savage). Does Katherine share any unusual hobbies with her characters? “I love to climb,” she replies. “I think climbing can be a superb way to see and know the world. I used to go clambering on the rooftops of my Oxford college [All Souls], for a sight of the gargoyles, and of the world spread out below.”

And, with Katherine’s ethereal, almost timeless application of language, her empathy with character and need for adventure, the future of the growing children’s lit genre seems to promise a vivid and enticing view. Nonetheless, as Katherine reminds us, there are growing obstacles too…“What worries me is poverty, and its effect on literacy,” she says. “Three quarters of a million children in the UK don’t own a single book, and I worry that, as more libraries close, we’ll create an apartheid, where some children are shut out from the world of books and the joy comes with them.”

After all, views of landscape, adventure and wonderlands were created without borders. Let’s make sure they need not be seen only by telescopes and keep the expanding horizons of children’s literature visible for all.

Bear Necessities

Round & About


Ella Reeves enjoys a summer highlight at the newly renovated historic gastropub The Bear & Ragged Staff in Appleton Road, Cumnor.

Head Chef of the restaurant at The Bear & Ragged Staff
The specials in restaurant of The Bear & Ragged Staff

The Bear and Ragged Staff is a charming gastropub in the village of Cumnor, retaining many of its original Tudor features. I knew we were in for a treat, as my Great Uncle Tom, who lives in the area and has excellent taste, goes there a couple of times a week.

It was the ideal location for a clement summer evening, with a well-kept display of flowers welcoming visitors on arrival. And boy, did we need welcoming. In retrospect, it would have been lovely to have taken a cycle ride to the Bear and Ragged Staff. Or, you could stay in one of the nine lovely rooms on the premises. My clumsy mistake meant we got on the wrong bus, which led to a traumatic journey, but we were put at ease when we were met by the lovely and professional staff.

We started with a drink on the south-facing terrace before dinner. I was keen to try the cocktail menu, and chose a cosmopolitan, which was perfectly balanced on sweetness and sharpness from the lime. My partner, partial to a good rosé, ordered a pinot blush, which went down a treat. Sometimes, it’s the little details that count: lavender and rosemary in little plant pots on the tables. I also noted the biodegradable straws, a good sign of a forward-thinking, sustainable establishment.

The restaurant was managed like a well-oiled machine. The staff were knowledgeable about the menu, answering each question and attending to each request with discreet elegance.

I love a good eatery with a menu dilemma… The kind of place where everything sounds so delicious that you just cannot choose and have to “panic order”. We were not rushed by the ever-patient and charming staff, but our hungry tums and salivating mouths necessitated twe order without delay.

I always wonder if it is fair to review the specials, but I have it on good knowledge that the selection is on par each evening. I was torn between the special starter of blue cheese croquettes with pickled shallots and toasted pine nut salad, and buffalo mozzarella, heritage tomato and basil salad. My decision was made when my partner agreed to let me sample his croquettes.

Digging into the crispy exterior, the blue cheese oozed onto the tangy salad leaves, set off by the gentle crunch of the pine nuts. It was described by my partner as the “best starter ever” and I knew he was genuine as it is rare he would eat his greens with such enthusiasm. I had to agree when I was allowed to sample – just a bit though, that’s shallot!

I dug into my starter and was transported back to my recent visit to Venice, where the caprese salad became my favourite dish to order at any restaurant.  The Laverstoke mozzarella – sourced from the first farm to produce authentic mozzarella in the UK – was every bit as creamy as it should be, complimented by the basil-infused dressing and stylishly multi coloured tomatoes, sweet and plump enough to rival their Italian counterparts.

It was beautifully paired with a sauvignon blanc that was every bit as crisp, fresh and lemony as it should be – just the way I like it.

Then, the mains. Oh, the mains! We both opted for duck, and were impressed by the creative talent of the chef to create two very different dishes.

My choice was the special, a roasted duck breast, served beautifully tender and pink, with crunchy pancetta, hispi cabbage, and a perfectly seasoned ‘jus’. I come from the sort of family where you would set your relatives in a state of panic by setting out a full roast and not bringing the gravy until last, so it took a great deal of self-control to resist licking my plate clean. My partner’s duck Bolognese was a welcome twist on a classic, with crispy duck crumb adding depth through the texture contrast.

Feeling that we were reaching capacity, we opted for a light finish of a trio of Jude’s free-range ice creams (him), and an espresso martini (me). I am known for being fussy about all my drinks (to say the least) and the espresso martini is no exception: it must have the perfect balance of sweetness. They nailed it.

Call The Bear & ragged Staff on 01865 862329 or visit

Indulge in the Foodie Festival

Round & About


Enjoying food with your family, is always a great combination, add music, great attractions and a festival and that’s a whole new take on fun!

Food and family, always go together, add music, great attractions and a festival and that’s a whole new take on fun!

The Foodies Festival returns, with a whole lot of master and bake off chefs all descending on South Park, Headington over the Bank Holiday weekend, August 25-27.

Included in the star-studded line up of culinary geniuses, is MasterChef 2018 runner-up Nawamin Pinpathomrat and Kenny Tutt, the bank manager who beat him to the MasterChef 2018 title. Both will be cooking their favourite dishes in the Chefs’ Theatre.

Great British Bake Off winner Sophie Faldo, the TV contest runner up, Steven Carter Bailey and Italian chef Giancarlo Caldesi, who presented the BBC2 series, Road to Tuscany, will also cook live.

Local chefs Paul Bell, of the Cherwell Boathouse, Paul Wellburn, The Oxford Kitchen and Chris Bentham, The Black Boy gastropub, will share their signature dishes in the chefs’ theatre.

Street Food Avenue features more than 30 food stalls and a chance to sample and buy from more than 100 artisan producers taking festival-goers on a culinary trip of the globe.

This year the festival will also celebrate live music into the night on the newly-launched stage with performances from much-loved 90s headliners Toploader, power pop group Dodgy and hugely admired band The Hoosiers.

Supported by Musicians Against Homelessness, the live music stage will see talented emerging bands and solo artists perform with tickets raising money for UK-wide homelessness charity Crisis.

As well as lots to see and eat, there are a mouth-watering array of attractions including fun cream-pie throwing, chilli-eating and cheese-stretching contests.

Visitors can try their hand at chocolate-making, cake decorating and brewing health-boosting Kombucha tea.

The Drinks Theatre will welcome expert mixologists and sommeliers to the stage and give wine-buffs a chance to sample varieties from around the world. And, thirst-quenching cocktails will be available at Tequila Shack, Tikki Rum Bar and Gin Station.

Younger foodies can have fun in the Kids Cookery Theatre, craft area and play zone with bouncy castle and face painting. A ferris wheel and carousel will add to the festival atmosphere.

Naturally, you’ll want to be at this ‘gastronomical’ event and the festival organisers have partnered up with Round & About Magazine to offer visitors, two for one tickets.

Simply visit and type in the code: FOODIES241 or call 0844 9951111 

Wheelyboat fundraising appeal

Round & About


A Wheelyboat will really help The Wallingford Accessible Boat Club (WABC) members. Can you help them reach their £65,000 target?

WABC Wheelyboat

The Wallingford Accessible Boat Club (WABC) mission is to make “messing about on the river” enjoyable for everyone. It is a voluntary, community organisation where able-bodied and disabled folk are encouraged to participate independently in river-borne experiences, such as picnicking, fishing and boating on the Wallingford stretch of The Thames.

A wheelchair-accessible powerboat, the Coulam Wheelyboat V20, will make access a reality for all members of the WABC. It is a boat that has a drop-down bow facility that allows wheelchair users the ability to simply roll on to the flat bottom of the boat. ”

To get a Wheelyboat,  the WABC need £65,000.  Three major donors have come forward to give this community project a great start to its drive, but they are hoping the public can help them reach their final target.

Andrew Risk, WABC, head of marketing and communications, says: “We have been extremely fortunate in attracting three significant early donations which have given us a real head start to our fundraising appeal.  We are very grateful to the donors for their help at this time –‘early money’ makes such a difference.  Now the hard work is to keep the momentum going.  I appeal to individuals, grant-making organisations and local companies to please help us.  Any financial assistance, small or large, will be much appreciated, as it will improve the quality of life for many local, disabled people.”

Please donate via or email

Mud in your eye

Round & About


Reaching your full potential is the name of the game at Abingdon RFC, writes Sam Colmer, the club’s chairman of the mini and youth teams

Abingdon RFU

Abingdon Rugby Club is a community club with a current emphasis of encouraging every player to achieve full potential while enjoying both the sporting and social aspects of the game.

Founded in 1931, Abingdon RUFC boasts a playing membership of 250+ with a full range of Mini and Junior teams to compliment the three senior sides.

Abingdon RFU

Fully qualified coaching is available to those of any age or gender who wish to improve performance or who have simply never played the sport and want to give it a go!

We enjoy our own dedicated facilities of a large modern clubhouse with four pitches and a floodlit training area. For any further information or details of membership opportunities (playing or otherwise), please don’t hesitate to contact us.

The Mini/Juniors Rugby Season at Abingdon RUFC starts on the first Sunday in September, and the Senior sides kick off the second Saturday in September.

Abingdon RFC Minis welcomes players from age 5 years to 16 years. The practical lower age limit is 6 although well co-ordinated rising 5s would not be turned away.

As a club we are proud to champion Rugby’s core values of Teamwork, Respect, Enjoyment, Discipline and Sportsmanship which we hope inspires  lifelong bonds between the children, adults and a our sport.

Our philosophy within the Minis and juniors section is to put the children at the heart of everything we do and all the decisions that we make, that is why we have taken the Quilter Kids First Pledge for the U7-U13 age grades.

Abingdon RFU
Abingdon RFU

Within the U14 – U18 age grades  our core values are strongly upheld and the ethos is to be competitive and to enjoy winning but not at all costs, as it’s the fun of playing with your mates that we as a club support above all.

We have an amazing group of RFU qualified and very dedicated coaches who help create a safe, fun and inclusive environment for our children to learn and prosper through rugby.

Using rugby union as a vehicle for developing a young  person’s “Personal and Social” skills can have a dramatic impact an all aspects of their life.

We also have a Colts team and 2 Senior sides and it doesn’t matter how old you are if you can run around and pass a ball we will welcome you with open arms.

Senior preseason training starts are currently runing every Tuesday and Thursday. We welcome anyone over the age of 17, to senior preseason training – whether you have never touched a rugby ball in your life or are a seasoned pro, we welcome you to join in.

Abingdon RFU

We also run the RFU O2 touch rugby session on a Sunday throughout the summer and mid

O2 Touch is a fun and friendly non contact game environment for both men and women of all abilities to get involved in touch rugby.  Whether its about honing your fitness or having a great time exercising as a group, this is social fitness at its best.

For more information call 01235 553810 or visit