Concert: Violin virtuoso

Round & About

Abingdon & Kingston Bagpuize

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.

  Tickets available at marlboroughconcertseries.org. Enquiries: 01672 892566 or [email protected]

Blackbeard’s Treasure at Escape Hunt

Cherry Butler

Abingdon & Kingston Bagpuize

Cherry Butler ends up all at sea in Reading’s newest escape room, Blackbeard’s Treasure at Escape Hunt.

It seems Reading residents can’t get enough of being locked in a room and trying to puzzle our way out against the clock, with numerous escape games popping up in town over the past few years. The fifth and latest, Escape Hunt, opened on 7th December.

Having assembled a crack team of sleuths – from escape room virgins to Crystal Maze Live veterans – we arrived at King’s Walk bright and early on a grey Saturday, ready to attempt to steal Blackbeard’s Treasure.

Themed on a pirate ship, the wood-clad room had been put together with great attention to detail, and was so involving that we quickly forgot that we were in a shopping centre. My “shipmates” and I had an hour to search for clues and solve the puzzles that would set us free. Sadly, our time ran out; in our defence there were a couple of technical teething issues! We left thoroughly flummoxed, but having had fun.

As well as pirates, players can channel Norse gods or outlaws in The Last Vikings and Escape From The Wild West rooms. Doctor Who fans will soon be able to immerse themselves in the first escape game officially based on the BBC series, coming to Reading in March.

A game costs £20-25 per person (£30-33 for Doctor Who) depending on the number of players (up to six in a team). They sell gift boxes, too, an alternative to giving more stuff.

Escape Hunt also has rooms in Oxford, Bristol and other cities around the UK and the world.

 You can find out more, check terms and conditions and book at escapehunt.com

Image courtesy of Escape Hunt

A cut above: best Christmas roasts

Round & About

Abingdon & Kingston Bagpuize

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!

GINspiration

Round & About

Abingdon & Kingston Bagpuize

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

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.

Foxdenton Estate

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.

Special say

Round & About

Abingdon & Kingston Bagpuize

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 [email protected]

Young minds

Liz Nicholls

Abingdon & Kingston Bagpuize

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 www.thenakedpharmacy.com or email [email protected] 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 www.boost-drama.co.uk

Mud in your eye

Round & About

Abingdon & Kingston Bagpuize

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 www.abingdonrufc.co.uk

Drink quench marks

Round & About

Abingdon & Kingston Bagpuize

Our beautiful part of the world is full of fantastic food & drink producers. We uncork some of our favourites to enjoy this summer…

If summer joy could be encapsulated in a sound, surely it would be the “pop” of a perfectly chilled bottle? And when you’re uncorking the fruits of your own labours, success is sweet indeed…

“This land is a b***** to cultivate,” says Henry Laithwaite as he stands on the undulating Chiltern slopes alongside his wife Kaye. “It’s so flinty that the harrow kept breaking when we started working the soil, which inspired our name. But it is a very special spot.”

Indeed, this beautiful Thames Valley terroir is one of the many magical ingredients (along with lots of hard work) which have helped conjure up the lush velvety blushing fizz we uncork and sample in Harrow & Hope’s adjoining state-of-the-art winery. This non-vintage brut rosé, made exclusively from pinot noir grapes, won a gold medal in the Sommelier Wine Awards. Produced using traditional methods and the precious fruit from these relatively young vines, Harrow & Hope’s sparkling wines are flying the flag for the Great British food and drink revolution. Visit www.harrowandhope.com

Here at Round & About Magazine we are passionate (not to mention greedy and thirsty) supporters of local pubs, restaurants and producers. After all, anyone working in the food & drink industry will know all too well that it takes a lot of hard graft to create the perfect recipe for punters to enjoy.

Chalgrove Gin

Gin has seen a surge in popularity and there are some interesting local producers in this spirited part of the world. Chalgrove Artisan Distillery use juniper berries, coriander seed, angelica root, cardamon and black peppercorns, honed in an alembic copper still, to create their OX44 Gin; visit www.chalgroveartisandistillery.com.

Did you know gin started out as a medicine (it was thought to cure gout and indigestion)? In the 18th century, alcohol was safer to drink than water and gin was cheaper than beer; it was untaxed until the government cottoned on, sparking hooch production. Much of the gin was drunk by women (with historians blaming it for child neglect and citing wet nurses giving gin to babies to quieten them), landing many in debtors’ prisons or the gallows, or driving them to madness, suicide and death (hence the term Mother’s Ruin). However, these days it’s a more joyful summer spirit, and can even be considered a beauty tonic…

Young In Spirit is the world’s first company which combines spirits with pure collagen. Oxford “gintrepreneurs” Camilla Brown and Liz Beswick have earned attention from Vogue and The Daily Mail, among others for their Collagin; www.collagin.co.uk.

The artisans at Toad in Oxford craft gin, absinthe, vodka and rye whiskey worth a shot – and there’s a new cocktail bar at Bicester village; www.spiritoftoad.com. And Mr Hobbs Gin, part of the Hobbs of Henley Experience, has launched two new fruit flavoured gin liqueurs; Rhubarb & Ginger and Raspberry & Elderflower www.mrhobbsgin.co.uk 

Is beer your tipple? Hoppy bunnies are spoilt for choice. For tours, tastings and hearty ales, check out Witney’s wondrous Wychwood Brewery (www.wychwood.co.uk). Cirencester’s Corinium Ales (www.coriniumales.co.uk), Chipping Norton’s Hook Norton Brewery www.hooky.co.uk. A passion for good beer and social justice fuel Botley’s Tap Social, where the team offer live music and street food every Friday and Saturday in August as well as the monthly comedy night and reggae night, www.tapsocialmovement.com. Ciderniks near Kintbury has been making natural ciders, pure apple juice and cider vinegar since 2003; www.ciderniks.com

Spice up your life…

Variety is the spice of life and there are so many restaurants to enjoy this summer. Michelin-starred Atul Kochhar (the father of Benares in London and Sindhu in Marlow) hosts Indian nights in August at his divine Hawkyns in Amersham; www.hawkynsrestaurant.co.uk. The Bottle & Glass Inn in Binfield has made a splash, gaining a nod from Harden’s Guide and a Michelin Plate; www.bottleandglassinn.com. For summer dining in style, check out The French Horn in Sonning (www.thefrenchhorn.co.uk), The Crooked Billet in Stoke Row (www.thecrookedbillet.co.uk) and The Nelson in Brightwell Baldwin www.thenelsonbrightwell.co.uk. Feast on fresh Lebanese and Middle Eastern delicacies (many vegan or veggie) including colourful salads and wraps at Comptoir Libanais in Oxford’s Westgate; www.comptoirlibanais.com
We also love the rustic summer vibes of The Highwayman (www.thehighwaymaninn-checkendon.co.uk). Cheers!

So, we’d like to know what’s your favourite pub or restaurant and why? Join in the conversation and comment below.

Hooked on Peter Pan

Round & About

Abingdon & Kingston Bagpuize

Journey to Neverland thanks to an open-air musical production of Peter Pan by the Immersion Theatre team, writes Peter Anderson

Once again, the theatre’s artistic director James Tobias combines with composer Robert Gathercole for this latest adaptation of J. M. Barrie’s iconic story about a boy who never grew up.

“I’m incredibly excited to continue expanding Immersion’s portfolio of work,” James tells me. “Peter Pan is shaping up to be another
larger-than-life summer treat for families of all ages, complete with all the ingredients that make an Immersion show such a uniting, and above all fun family experience.”

So, what you need to do is follow young Peter, as he guides Wendy and the Darling boys on an awfully big adventure as they think happy thoughts and fly high to Neverland. Once there, they will meet a collection of well-known characters, from Peter’s friends – the Lost Boys, his close friend the cheeky Tinkerbell, and then of course there is the hilarious Smee and the most feared villain of them all, the evil Captain Hook. Filled with catchy music, heaps of audience interaction (oh yes there is!), and a laugh-a-minute script makes this a hilarious and exciting musical about the boy who never grew up, one where every member of the family will be hooked!

Speaking of Hook, Thomas Cove who plays him says: “It’s such a pleasure to be teaming up again with James Tobias and the great people at Immersion Theatre. It’s not often that chances to play such an iconic character like Captain Hook come along, so as soon as the casting came up, I knew it was something I wanted to be involved with. The team who have been assembled truly bring this timeless story to life. The show is packed with Immersion’s trademark high-energy, fantastic entertainment for all ages, and the beautiful open-air venues we’ll be visiting will be in for a treat.”

The performances are outside, so audience members can take their own picnic, chairs or rugs, and drinks will be served during the interval. After the performance you may also have a chance to meet members of the cast.

Peter Pan will be performed on lawns, in our readers’ areas on the following dates:
Wednesday 8th & Thursday 9th August in Hatchlands Park, East Clandon, Surrey.
Friday, 10th August In Langley Park, Iver, Buckinghamshire.
Monday, 13th August in Shaw House, Newbury, Berkshire
Sunday, 26 & Monday, 27th August in Blenheim Palace, Woodstock, Oxfordshire.

For details and tickets, visit www.immersion theatre.co.uk

Peter Pan by Immersion Theatre

Peter Pan - Coming soon to a venue near you!

Peter Pan opened this weekend and has already been wowing sold out audiences so be sure to HOOK your tickets now!https://www.immersiontheatre.co.uk/outdoor-peter-pan-2018/

Posted by Immersion Theatre Company on Monday, 2 July 2018

Super natural photography

Round & About

Abingdon & Kingston Bagpuize

Local photographer and wildlife enthusiast Ewan Jones shares his love of all creatures great and small, right on our doorstep

Feathered, furry, scaly or smooth, I love animals of all shapes and sizes. As a small boy, my bookshelf was full of monumental wildlife encyclopedias.

Growing up in Dorchester on Thames and moving to Clifton Hampden at the age of eleven, I was blessed with seeing countless creatures that many from my generation have not had the privilege of.

I distinctly remember one Sunday morning, my parents excitedly whispering across the kitchen to alert me to the spectacle in the garden. There, in all its splendour, was a tiny weasel running back and forth to the garden shed, climbing up the walls, crawling underneath it, at a pace that even made a child tired. I think I fell in love.

As a young adult, I shared my nature passion with a special friend. We’d go on walks together in the hope of seeing mustelids, especially weasels or stoats… Any nature-lover could have told you I was practically hoping to win the lottery. My friend had a camera, a pretty good Canon with a decent lens. While I was looking on, in the hope of a miracle, they’d stop at every tree, attempting a snap of any bird or butterfly that crossed our trail.

At first I was rather unimpressed by their slowing of my searches, but when I saw their results when we got home, my preferences quickly began to change. It was no longer all about the mustelids, it was about the joy and the beauty of all the creatures, and capturing them in a moment of perfection. It was time I got myself a camera.

Many pass-me-downs and purchases later, I am a well-prepared twitcher. I’ll travel far and wide to get a chance of adding new bird species to my collection. I’m lucky to have a Spanish mother so I can travel to the country, which is simply jam-packed with African migrant species.

Yes, I have a life list. Yes, I have my favourites. But to me, wildlife photography is about capturing the perfect posture, in perfect colour, in exquisite detail. Only then, is that beautiful creature yours.

Ewan’s tips!

Photography is subjective; everybody has a different view on what makes a beautiful photo. If you are a fan of colourful lighting, get yourself up at the crack of dawn for the early-morning sunlight. If you’re a fan of scientific accuracy and crisp detail, save up your pennies and splash out on quality gear. To locate rare species, especially local birds, I highly recommend www.oxonbirding.blogspot.co.uk. My humble advice to anyone wishing to take wonderful photos of nature is to start simple, put the hours in, explore your passion. Just get out there and take photos of everything that moves…. Oh, and a little photography course won’t go amiss, either.