Chilterns Walking Festival

Round & About

Oxfordshire

There are a wide variety of walks to enjoy – however you like to take yours – as part of the Chilterns Walking Festival from Saturday, 18th May to Sunday, 2nd June.

Are you an ambler? Do you like to saunter? Would you consider yourself to be a plodder or are you a trekker?

However you like to stroll, trudge, wander or roam, the Chilterns Walking Festival is the right route for you if you like to put one foot in front of the other. The 16-day event offers spectacular views, local stories and fun activities to enjoy as you get out and explore the countryside on one of more than 50 guided walks and special activities this month.

There’s a wide variety of walks to choose from, ranging from short gentle ambles to more challenging hill hikes, all to the backdrop of the stunning Chilterns countryside. The walking festival offers the chance to meet artists, craftspeople, farmers, food producers and storytellers.

You might choose to “meet the maker” with an art and craft walk from Nuffield, visit a blacksmiths and a furniture maker and be inspired by the scenery around you or perhaps you’d like a walk to a woodland camp where a simmering kettle and chance to cook lunch over a campfire await?

For something rather different how about discovering “powerful places in the Hundreds of Aylesbury”: an Iron Age fort, a medieval castle and the Prime Minister’s country residence at Chequers. Discover Henley, explore its history and go on the trail of Midsomer Murders and filming locations – you’ll hear personal anecdotes and details not found in the guide books.
There’s lots of history to enjoy along the way, too. Follow in the footsteps of your ancestors along the Tuddingway, a medieval route along the Thames corridor with divisions up into the beechwoods and take a guided tour of the historic Jordans meeting house (complete with tea and cake at the end) in the company of a life-long resident of the Quaker-founded village of Seer Green.

How ever you decide to walk the Chilterns, there’ll be a trail for you with walks for different ages, interests and levels of fitness; walks for young families, those with limited mobility and dog walkers. Each walk is guided by an experienced knowledgeable leader.

The main event sponsor is camping shop Complete Outdoors. Managing director Andrew Inkley said: “For over 35 years, we’ve been helping people to prepare for their adventures, whether walking in the park, or climbing a mountain. As a Chilterns company we loved the idea of supporting a local walking festival that helps people to discover what’s on their doorstep.”

The festival is also sponsored by family-owned and run brewer and pub company Brakspear and many of its 132 pubs are located along the routes of the Chilterns, so why not pop in to in and enjoy a well-deserved pint along the way?!

  Most of the walks and events are free but must be booked in advance. For full details and to book head to Visit Chilterns

Pacific row

Round & About

Oxfordshire

Picture: From left, Emma Rogers, Jess Shuman, Kat Butler, Anna Campbell

Girls dreaming big: Crew preparing for 4,000km row across Pacific aim to inspire others

Kat is one of four ordinary girls bidding to do something extraordinary to try to encourage girls to dream dare do.

She and three others, Emma, Jess and Anna, are part of the Girls Who Dare crew who will be rowing in the Great Pacific Race in May 2020.
Described as the “world’s toughest endurance challenge”, the girls will row 24 hours a day, living on a 24ft boat as they row the 4,000km across the Pacific from California to Hawaii, with the aim of breaking the world record which stands at 50 days.

Kat who rows at Wallingford Rowing Club, has been rowing for about six years having taken it up after being inspired by the 2012 London Olympics.

She works as a trauma and orthopaedic registrar and admits it has been hard fitting in the training around 14 hour days/nights but says it has been going well, but added: “Jess has just had an appendectomy (better now than half way across the Pacific!) so her training is a little stilted at the moment but she’s getting back into it.”

The four girls had not met until Emma put the idea of the challenge out on Facebook, where Kat admits she “jumped at the chance”.
She said: “For me it’s the mental and physical challenge, and such an amazing once in a lifetime opportunity. We then further advertised on social media and found Jess and Anna.”

The girls will sleep in cabins at either end of the boat with rowing space in the middle. The cabins are the size of a single bed, although there is no bed or mattress, the floors are padded and sleeping bags will keep the girls warm during their rest periods.

They’ll spend two hours rowing and two hours sleeping; food will be mostly freeze-dried meals and energy bars; a change into less wet clothing; quick wash with a baby wipe and into the sleeping bag.
Kat admits the physical side does not particularly worry her but that the mental challenge will be tough.

She says: “I have no idea how I will respond to the fear of a 40ft wave and being so sleep deprived all I want to do is cry, having sores on my hands and bottom that cause unresolving pain and to top it off the potential for being hit in the head by flying fish! Who knows how you will respond to that?”

But it the team work and the aim of inspiring others that will drive Kat and her crewmates on, “I am hoping as a team we can work together, supporting each other and driving each other on to complete this amazing challenge and hopefully setting a new world record as we go. Dream big!”

For more information and to support the girls, visit Girls who dare

Foster Care Fortnight

Round & About

Oxfordshire

Foster carers are part of what’s often termed “the team around the child” who are responsible for the wellbeing and development of a fostered child.

More than 65,000 children currently live with almost 55,000 foster families across the UK. This equates to nearly 80% of the 83,000 children in care away from home on any one day in the UK.

The Fostering Network estimates that fostering services need to recruit a further 6,800 foster families in the next 12 months. Foster Care Fortnight™ is the charity’s annual campaign to raise the profile of fostering and help recruit families.

The campaign which has been running for almost 20 years, showcases the commitment, passion and dedication of foster carers. Thousands of new foster families are needed every year, with the greatest need being help for older children, sibling groups, disabled children and unaccompanied asylum seeking children. Foster carers come from all walks of life and all backgrounds.

Ilse who has been a foster carer here in Oxfordshire for more than 10 years thought being single would exclude her, but she says all you need is to be patient, open and have fun. Her children are as involved and act as role models for the foster children she helps. She says: “The benefits are seeing them grow into confident children. They will ask for things and they shine, lift their chins up and become confident little people. Those are the moments when you think ‘wow, we’re doing a really good job’.”

Thousands of new foster families are needed every year to care for children, with the greatest need being for foster carers for older children, sibling groups, disabled children and unaccompanied asylum-seeking children. All that matters is your ability to provide a stable and caring environment for a foster child. You don’t need to be married or in a relationship, or to own your own home, and your sexual orientation or any disability should not hinder your application. Whichever route you choose, you should rest assured that there is a support network to help anyone who is committed and willing to foster a child.

Find out more

At an open evening on Wednesday, 15th May, at 6.30pm at 4400 Nash Court, John Smith Drive, Oxford Business Park South, OX4 2RU

Visit www.oxfordshire.gov.uk/fostering or call 0800 783 5724. You can also contact Family Tree Fostering on 01235 250235 or  head to the Family Tree Fostering Facebook page.

Find more information too at the Fostering Network

Wallingford Car Rally

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Oxfordshire

Rev up for rally: Hundreds of vintage and classic cars are set to take to the streets for this year’s Wallingford Car Rally

Petrol heads and fans of vintage vehicles will be lining the streets to get a look at the hundreds of cars set to roll through town as part of this year’s Wallingford Car Rally.

Thousands watched last year as the colourful, classic and quirky drove through the town before parking up at The Kinecroft for a fun-packed day celebrating all things motor-related.

Wallingford’s hugely popular classic car rally and parade is rolling back in to town on 12th May and is set to feature hundreds of amazing cars and motorbikes.

Last year almost £18,000 was given to local good causes – Wallingford Scouts, The Corn Exchange, Riding for the Disabled, SeeSaw, MacMillan and Wallingford Fire Service among others and brought the total raised overall since the event started to almost £120,000.

Entries for the parade, which starts at 10.30am, are now full – they sold out in an impressive 23 minutes – but everyone is welcome to come along on the day and watch the parade drive into the Kinecroft before enjoying the day’s events there which run until around 5pm.

In addition to the cars, visitors will be able to enjoy a great selection of fun activities for the whole family including a climbing wall, penny arcade and many food traders.

Admission is free but buckets are on site for donations directly to local causes.

Visitors on the day can also enjoy rides in a classic or supercar courtesy of The Sporting Bears Motor Club which offer rides in the cars in exchange for a donation.

For more information visit the Wallingford Car Rally site

Abingdon Jazz Festival

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Oxfordshire

Jumping for joy at Abingdon Jazz Festival

Jazz is alive and well in Abingdon this month when the town plays host to the Abingdon Jazz Festival courtesy of the Friends of Abingdon and Music at the Unicorn.

The festival will take place throughout the town centre including the ancient Long Gallery of the old Abingdon Abbey Buildings from 10th to 12th May. The festival will include at least eight main concerts in the centre of town.

This year’s artists will include Art Themen, Gilad Atzmon and the Orient House Ensemble, Fleur Stevenson Trio, Funk Bake, New Jazz Sextet and many many more.

Themen will be well known to many music fans of all genres, over his long career he has played with Rod Stewart, Alexis Korner, Joe Cocker and Long John Baldry among others.

Gilad’s music is more of a cultural hybrid, he merges the music of the Middle East and Eastern Europe with jazz and contemporary music.

Exciting modern jazz ensemble Thixoitropy will play new compositions as well as some of the standards; the Fleur Stevenson Trio features one of the new breed of jazz singers and with the Alvin Roy Quartet, The Heavy Dexters, Funk Bake and the New Jazz Sextet there really something to suit every jazz buff.

Chairman of Friends of Abingdon, Brian Brown said they are delighted to be preseting the festival. He added: “The festival will be centred in the Friends’ medieval and atmospheric Abbey Buildings plus other buildings throughout the town. Great musicians, wonderful acoustics ad lots of fun.”

Michael Ward, chairman of Music at the Unicorn called it a “celebration of brilliant live music with something for everyone”. He said: “A third of the events are free so if you’ve never experienced live jazz before this is the event for you.”

Art Themen

a celebration of brilliant live music with something for everyone

For more information and to book tickets visit www.abingdonjazzfestival.org.uk 

Abingdon Air Show

Round & About

Oxfordshire

Abingdon Air & Country Show has achieved soaring success and helped lots of good causes locally so put this year’s even in your diary…

The annual Air & Country Show at Abingdon Airfield, Dalton Barracks has reached its 20th anniversary this year, something the main organiser Neil Porter never thought would be achieved. Once the bills have been paid, over £89,000 has been donated to charities over this period, with a residue left back to help kickstart the following years event. The show relies on public footfall and exhibitors booking in to help fund each show.

The small committee of five people, including Neil, organise this in their spare time, and over time have been blessed with some wonderful attractions. This year will see, among other highlights, a World War Two DC3 Dakota paradrop, recognising the 75th anniversary of D Day.

The show is set for Sunday 5th May, starting at 10am, with various air and ground attractions.

More details can be found on the Abingdon Air Show website

Henley Arts Trail

Round & About

Oxfordshire

How many of the 300 exhibitors will you see and enjoy around Henley?

This year’s Henley Arts Trail is the biggest to date with almost 300 artists and makers at 33 venues covering an area of 50 square miles of countryside.

Taking place over the May bank holiday weekend, 4th to 6th, the trail showcases the vibrant visual arts and crafts scene around Oxfordshire and Berkshire.

The trail attracts around 10,000 visitors across the region taking in Bix, Twyford, Shiplake, Sonning, Hurst and Waltham St Lawrence with work displayed in studios, garden sheds, garages and village halls.

Such is the variety of work in the trail that life-size sculptures sit alongside delicate jewellery and abstract paintings nestle next to detailed nature art.

Many of the venues are dotted in villages along the Thames, offering a great opportunity to enjoy some splendid countryside at the same time. However many venues you are visiting it couldn’t be easier with the help of a map you can download from the website or pick up a leaflet from libraries or in village newsletters.

Organiser, Jo Keiller, says: “The standard of work on show is exceptional. Where else can you see the work of an artist who exhibits internationally, alongside emerging talent taking part in their first show? Talent is often hidden in spare rooms and garages, so the trail gives artists the chance to connect with the public and the public to discover new and exciting makers.”

Many venues offer refreshments and some boast demonstrations or workshops for visitors to get fully immersed in the art trail experience.

Find out more and see the map on the Henley Arts Trail site

Green Day’s American Idiot

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Oxfordshire

Here’s why you should catch this powerful musical at Reading’s Hexagon between now and Saturday, 4th May, writes Peter Anderson

Three childhood friends in post 9/11 America are each seeking for a meaning. That was the inspiration for Green Day’s Grammy winning album, fifteen years ago “American Idiot”. Ten years ago, came the musical with lyrics Green Day’s Billy Joe Armstrong and a book by Billy Joe and Mike Mayer. The musical won two Tony awards and another Grammy award for best show album. Now the musical is touring the UK and comes to Reading and Wimbledon as part of the tenth anniversary tour. The show stars singer-songwriter Luke Friend (X-Factor), Tom Milner (The Voice and Waterloo Road) and introducing Sam Lavery (X-Factor and Capital FM) as Whatsername.

Peter Anderson caught up with the lovely Sam and asked how she discovered her love and talent for singing. I had often sung around the home as a child, then we had a school trip out to Holy Island that included a talent competition. A lot of the lads did football tricks, some of the girls did dancing and for some unknown reason I had a go at singing. From that moment on that was the way I wanted to go, when I came back from the holiday, I started singing lessons and entered competitions.

Whereas unlike Tom she did not have the chance to sing for Tom Jones, one of her relatives and her inspiration has. “I only have one inspiration, my grandfather. When he was younger, he was a backing singer for a while for Tom Jones and could have made a career of it. But that career would have been in London and he had a young family in the North-East. He decided to forgo the possible career and go down the mines to look after his family. I am so glad that he can now enjoy my success and see what I am doing, and he has been very supportive to me.”

So, what can audiences look forward to in the explosive rock musical that is “Green Day’s American Idiot”? “Very like a gig combined with an emotional roller-coaster ride, we have a live backing band between the three of us. I think it is the kind of show where you leave it humming the tunes and then slowly the issues that the musical also raises dawn on you.”

The three of you are more known as singers than for acting, how did you work on the characterisations? “All three of us major characters have been given a lot of help about the research to do with the complex issues the songs raise. The other idea that I really found helpful was that we were made to read the lyrics time and time again without the music. This gave us the time to really grasp the meaning of the words and who we were singing them to.”

For your chance to see this powerful musical that has introduced a new generation of theatregoers to Green Day’s music the show comes to Reading this week and Wimbledon later in May. It is at the Hexagon from Tuesday 30th April to Saturday 4th May, and the New Theatre Wimbledon between 14th and 18th May.

  For full information on performances and tickets visit www.readingarts.com or www.atgtickets.com/venues/new-wimbedon-theatre.

Against Breast Cancer

Round & About

Oxfordshire

Join Against Breast Cancer (ABC) for a full or half marathon or a 10km sponsored walk alongside the beautiful River Thames on Sunday, 5th May.

Breast Walk Ever Berkshire is suitable for all and dogs are welcome too. So why not sign up and help the ABC team in their mission to prevent secondary spread, the main cause of breast-cancer related deaths.

In joining the team of Breast Walkers you will be provided with a training plan and fundraising support as well as the promise of a free post walk massage! Alison Bone – a volunteer for Against Breast Cancer – is doing just that having helped with marshalling Breast Walk Ever in 2018. Ali, like so many has her personal reason to walk having been affected by breast cancer.

Ali discovered a lump in her left breast in early 2000 and was diagnosed with grade 3 breast cancer. This came as a complete shock to Ali as there was no history of breast cancer in her family.

Ali has two children who were aged just 11 and nine at the time and she speaks of the heartbreak in telling them and her father. Ali was thankfully able to participate in a trial to see if her cancer had spread instead of removing all her lymph nodes. As a keen tennis player, Ali was very relieved in not having to have her lymph nodes removed. She had already asked her son’s tennis coach to teach her to play right handed which was fortunately now not necessary!

Ali had six rounds of a combination of two chemotherapy drugs three weeks apart and after her fifth round she required a blood transfusion. In July that year Ali had three more weeks of daily radiotherapy and regular checks concluded that Ali was now clear of cancer.

It was however during a routine mammogram 12 years later that a lump was found, this time in Ali’s right breast and the cancer was ER Positive. It was then that Ali decided to seek clarity as to whether there was a genetic link. In August 2012 Ali had another lumpectomy, and a further six rounds of chemotherapy and four weeks of daily radiotherapy. In March 2013 Ali received confirmation that she had the BRCA2 gene mutation.

By 2014, Ali’s daughter was tested. Ali and her daughter were both so very delighted and relieved to find that there was no genetic risk.

After seeking advice from a number of sources, Ali herself had a double mastectomy two years after learning of the BRCA2 gene mutation and is now participating in a study to try and understand why the mutation tends to occur often in those with a family history.

Ali is planning to walk the Breast Walk Ever Berks alongside her team of friends this year. “I have found walking a great way to get my fitness back after surgery. Walking as part of a group is a great way to help motivate each other”.

Why not join Alison with your own team on May 5th safe in the knowledge that you are helping to bring a vaccine Against Breast Cancer ever closer.

Entry to Breast Walk Ever Berks ranges from £10-£26 depending on distance and Concessions are available for senior citizens and students. We ask all participants to try and raise £50 towards our research.

We look forward to welcoming you to the banks of the Thames this Spring.

Avenue Q

Round & About

Oxfordshire

An irresistibly charming tale of the loveable characters on a downtown New York street trying to make sense of life’s burning issues comes to the Reading Hexagon this week.

Avenue Q was created by Jeff Marx and Robert Lopez, co-creator of Book of Mormon and writer of the songs for Disney’s Frozen. It won the Tony Awards “Triple Crown” for best musical, best score and best book.
Peter Anderson chatted to Lawrence Smith who plays Princeton in Avenue Q.  “I came late to acting,” he says, “my first love was singing. As a teenager, I sang with the National Youth Choir of Scotland. I trained as a classical singer with the Royal Academy of Music and Royal Scottish Conservatoire before moving into musical theatre. If the acoustics are right, backstage there is always a chance I may burst into some Purcell!”
Who has been the inspiration for Lawrence as he has widened his skillset from being a classical singer? “Without a doubt, Audra McDonald. Like me, she trained as a classical singer” in her case at the Julliard. She has won six Tony awards across all four acting categories and is equally at home on Broadway or performing with Houston Grand Opera.

Speaking of widening his skillset, is this the first time Lawrence has worked with puppets? “Absolutely, it’s a challenge combining acting and being true to the character and also manipulating the puppets and keeping everything under control.” He may have not worked with puppets, but he has certainly learned how to handle gadgetry on stage, one of his recent roles was the lead in Stephen Sondheim’s Sweeney Todd!

What can the Hexagon audience look forward to? “An evening of mischief, bad behaviour and political incorrectness! There are loads of funny songs, and everyone knows it has adult content. But I think the thing that the audience can look forward to is being surprised by the story. With people concentrating more on the songs, etc. I think the story and what it says about human relationships is something that almost tends to creep up on people without them realising.

Princeton has recently graduated with a BA in English – useful for – well we’ll see, he thinks he is a “bright young thing”. Heavily influenced by what he has seen on television he moves to New York, the place where all bright young things hang out. He arrives at Avenue Q, a veritable modern day Cheers, the apartment block where everyone knows your name! There he is greeted by a mixture of loveable and unforgettable characters who help not to not only guide him through New York, but also help him to discover who he is.

Well Avenue Q is the apartment block where Princeton ends up, but who would be the neighbours in Lawrence’s dream apartment block? “Dream is probably an interesting thought. It would be a dream for me, but perhaps not others in the area. I think I would love to live in an apartment block with Billy Holiday, Ella Fitzgerald and Sarah Vaughan. They would be a lovely group to sing with.”

New York is Princeton’s dream place to live, but does Lawrence have some dream places where he would love  to perform “I have been lucky enough to perform at The Globe and the Old Vic and being Scottish it is great that the run of Avenue Q is taking me up to some Scottish venues. The one place I haven’t managed to perform at so far is the National Theatre, that would be great.”

Avenue Q is part flesh, part felt and all heart.

An evening of mischief, bad behaviour and political incorrectness!

The show runs from today until Saturday, 27th April (advisory age 14+ mature themes). To book your tickets call 01889 9606060 or visit the Hexagon website