Mad about the blooms

Liz Nicholls

Summer is on the horizon bringing with it warmer days, hopefully plenty of sun and the glorious sight and scent of roses blossoming & spreading their joy

Which country is one of the world’s largest suppliers of roses with 54% of its land filled with the fragrant flower? Give yourself a pat on the back if you guessed Ecuador where the natural light provides the perfect year-round climate for them to thrive.

How about the most expensive rose in the world? The David Austin Juliet Rose, named after Shakespeare’s tragic heroine, was developed over the course of 15 years at a cost of a whopping £2.3million. The delicate apricot coloured large headed blooms were first displayed at Chelsea Flower Show in 2006.

More rose facts: the oldest living one is 1,000 years old and can be found on the wall of the Cathedral of Hildesheim in Germany, all varieties of rose are edible and the earliest rose fossils have been discovered in Colorado dating back 35 million years.

The most popular flower is rich in symbolism and history featuring in literature, music, heritage, as our national flower, in skincare and as the emblem for many sports team. Classic and instantly recognisable, they are ideal for almost every style of garden, flowering abundantly from early summer in pastel shades of pink, peach, cream or snowy-white; vibrant yellow and gold; orange, crimson and red. As any gardener will tell you, there are a few rose rules to ensure ‘everything comes up roses’.

Round & About gardening guru Cathie Welch says: “It’s all in the pruning! Before you prune, know your rose type and sharpen your secateurs. Cut correctly in the right place, dead heading throughout summer. Winter pruning should be cut to ideally pencil thickness to encourage more flowers. Cut out dead, weak and congested growth and don’t forget the suckers which come from the wild rootstock.”

Ramblers are in full bloom at this time of year and to ensure an attractive abundance, she adds: “After flowering has finished prune out some of the flowered shoots and tie in the annoying long ones that you have wanted to cut off because these will produce next year’s flowers.”

If you prefer to admire the beauty of roses and take in the rich fragrance from someone else’s handiwork there are plenty of gorgeous English gardens full of stately blooms.

The Rose Garden at Cliveden, SL1 8NS, is a heavenly place to visit, tucked away in a grove of mature trees. The contrast of the natural setting with the formality of the rose garden and its riot of colour and fragrance makes it feel like a magical secret garden. Wander under climbing rose arches with every colour from palest lemon to vibrant oranges to velvety dark crimson. With more than 900 in the summer-long display you’re sure to find a favourite.

Visit Waddesdon Manor, HP18 0JH, this month for the sweet scent of the rose garden from the colourful blooms filling the stately setting. The beds in the aviary and parterre have been decorated with colour influenced by Victorian-inspired planting.

Ruby Wax MBE on tour

Liz Nicholls

Liz Nicholls chats to author, comedian & mental health campaigner Ruby Wax whose I’m Not As Well As I Thought I Was UK tour has been extended by popular demand

Q. Hello Ruby. I loved your book, I’m Not As Well As I Thought I Was – it helped me a lot. Do you think it’s your best?
“Oh thank you, that means a lot. Well, I’m not sure but being on tour with this book has been the most fun, so that’s a clue. And I love it when people talk to me afterwards to say they feel less alone. So there is a reward for me ending up in a mental institution, after all.”

Q. One thing I loved was that you discovered your love for your husband Ed, your ‘rock’…?
“Yes, we never say stuff like that. Eddie’s sitting in front of me now, and he’s thrilled. No, we’re not a lovey-dovey couple at all, that’s why it’s lasted so long. That and distance.”

Q. Did you enjoy studying for your master’s [in mindfulness-based cognitive therapy] at Oxford Uni?
“Oh yeah! My favourite expression now is ‘I went to Oxford’. I was in Summertown so it wasn’t quite the cloistered, beautiful Oxford that everybody pictures but I was so entranced by the subject, the mind, the neuroscience of it. I said to them: if you don’t let me in I’m going to study it anyway.”

Q. How important is ritual in your life?
“Really important. I don’t have enough because I don’t have religion – I wish I did. I have to do mindfulness every day. It’s a work-out for the mind otherwise I’m all over the place.

Q. You were so honest with Louis Theroux on his Grounded podcast and it led to you being on TV more again. How do you feel about him now?
“I think what a decent human being he is. I didn’t do that interview so I could get back on TV. But it was a sweet thing he did. And, really, the man knows how to interview. So that’s fine: I can see the attraction now.”

Q. You made your name interviewing people, and doing it well. How do you feel about Donald Trump now?
“Let’s not discuss it: it’s too upsetting.”

Q. Is there anyone you’d like to interview?
“Not really. The people who I’d really like to speak too are vary of a camera. In politics now you couldn’t get to anybody or get any answers out of them, so what’s the point?”

Q. Do you watch much telly?
“Only Netflix and Amazon. No terrestrial or news; too many weapons of mass distraction, it creates a sense of terror we don’t need. But Married At First Sight Australia is a masterpiece. I’ve got a fan group and won’t have anything said against it.”

Q. What’s your favourite book?
“Too hard but A Fine Balance by Rohinton Mistry and Falling Upward by Richard Rorh are both brilliant.”

Q. Who would you choose as your dream parents, as obsessed to the parents you had?
“Hmm. Maybe Barack and Michelle Obama? They’d be great”

Q. Would you have liked to have a sibling to help you feel less alone as a child?
“It would have been nice but I’ll never know. You might want a brother or sister but what if they just spent their life beating you up?”

Q. If you had a magic wand what would you wish for?
“That people would be less savage. But that’s not going to happen.”

Q. Do you enjoy being on tour?
“I’m happier being on tour than doing anything else. I love being on trains, in a different hotel every night, and I love exploring the town I’m in and chatting to people after the show. I’m curious and I like to investigate each town. Coping with real life, that’s the tricky bit, but never touring.”

Visit for tour dates & more.

Best of Bucks with Alexandra Lhomond

Liz Nicholls

Alexandra Lhomond, 28, marketing manager at Ibanista, tells us about swapping the Mediterranean for Bucks

Q. Hello Alexandra. How are you?
“Life’s a whirlwind of excitement! I’ve got my hands full at Ibanista, where we help expats navigate the currency landscape. I love helping people realise their dreams! My husband started the venture two years ago and I joined last year. But the real joy? My little boy, Lucas. He’s two and a half and has a knack for melting hearts with his bright blue eyes and blonde hair – the total opposite of me! And let’s not forget my cats, Sushi and Katsu.”

Q. Where do you live?
“In High Wycombe. I made the leap across the channel from the sunny shores of southern France seven years ago. Trust me, the transition was quite the change of scenery! I can’t help but miss the sea and sun, but there’s something special about the English countryside that’s grown on me.”

Q. What do you most love about where you live?
“I love that it’s so close to London, but also so close to nature. Bucks has the best of both worlds. I go on long walks and there are so many different routes here. We live across from The Rye Park, and every season I enjoy seeing the leaves change.”

Q. And what’s one thing maybe you’d change?
“It’s disheartening to see the town centre’s decline, with numerous shops and restaurants shuttered. I hope things get better.”

Q. What are your favourite local pubs or restaurants?
“The Beech House in Beaconsfield & the Wild Strawberry Café and Barn Kitchen at Peterley Manor Farm in Great Missenden are personal favourites – serving great food with a fantastic atmosphere. When guests visit, it’s a muse to treat them to The Royal Standard of England in Beaconsfield – one of England’s oldest pubs.”

Q. What about shops or local businesses?
“The Front Room and Django’s are my top picks for cosy vibes and delicious coffee. As for shopping, I love Søstrene Grene – I can spend forever just looking at everything.”

Q. What’s your local hidden gem?
“Our go-to spot on weekends is Black Park in Wexham. No matter how often we go, we always get lost in the forest! Another favourite is the serene walk along the Thames from Bourne End to Marlow.”

Q. What highlights are you looking forward to?
“Summer holidays for sure! I’m heading to the South of France to reunite with my family. It’s a time for beach days, sea breezes, and indulging in the simple pleasures of good food and wine. At Ibanista, we’re dedicated to simplifying foreign currency exchange, particularly for expats, with a focus on Brits or US citizens making the move to France. Our calendar is packed with exciting events, from engaging podcast episodes to webinars. Check out our blog, brimming with valuable resources for anyone considering a move abroad, investing overseas, or retirement overseas.”

Q. Are you a member of any local groups?
“When I was on maternity leave, I used to go to the High Wycombe Mums Meet-Up. It’s a really supportive and friendly group for new mums.”

Q. What would you wish for the world?
“Peace! With so much turmoil and conflict, my deepest hope is an end to wars and conflicts.”

Visit Ibanista | Personalised Currency Solutions for Expats

Vox pop Q&A with Roger Runswick

Liz Nicholls

We chat to Roger Runswick, dad, DIY lover & founder & director of The 50plus, about his best bits of Bucks

Q. Hi Roger. Where do you live & what do you enjoy doing?
“I’m 72 and I still work full-time. I’ve lived in Chesham since the late 1970s (but with spells abroad for work). I have two adult children. My hobbies (and work!) are software coding, DIY (what a surprise!), applying technology in the home and (mostly) pleasure maintaining an old Morgan car and producing garden figures in acrylic.”

Q. Where are your favourite local haunts?
“I love walking in the Chilterns, The Grand Union Canal and the BBOWT [Berkshire, Buckinghamshire & Oxfordshire Wildlife Trust] reserves such as College Lake in Tring. I occasionally cycle, particularly along the Phoenix Trail from Princes Risborough to Thame – great for us oldies as being an old railway it’s reasonably level and Thame is a great coffee/snack halfway stop before returning.”

Q. What do you most love about where you live?
“Who can complain about living in the Chilterns? An AONB with marvellous countryside coupled with easy access to London and transport links!”

“Who can complain about living in the Chilterns?”

Q. What don’t you like so much?
“We’ve all got our gripes at the moment but as someone running a business what I’d really like is a few years without political instability, epidemics, wars so the global ‘we’ can instil confidence and grow the economy (politicians please take note!)”

Q. What are your favourite local pubs or restaurants?
“We often eat in Amersham. I’d mention the Pomeroy, Zaza, Bistro Twelve Twenty and Seasons Café.”

Q. What about shops or local businesses – any in particular you love to mooch round, or any worthy of a mention?
“Being a (possibly typical) male, I shop when I need something and ‘mooching’ is unusual for me. That usually means shopping for birthdays and Christmas when I certainly like the street markets where I can find unique gifts. I also like Amersham Owned and its partner bookshop Chapter Two in Chesham. Both are Hospice of St Francis shops and well worth a visit.”

Q. Where is your favourite local landmark or hidden secret locally?
“I suspect most people know about Wendover Woods, Coombe Hill and the Little Missenden to Amersham river walk but all are to commended.”

Q. What highlights are you looking forward to?
“The first is spring and summer and hopefully less rain this year! A warm summer providing plenty of opportunity for garden works, walks and open-top car drives to some favourite destinations, especially the Chinnor & Princes Risborough railway for a good breakfast and a train ride if it takes your fancy.”

Q. What’s on the horizon for your business?
“The 50plus is a business that provides a very broad range of home maintenance and improvement services. The name originally derived from the age of the service providers (the plumbers, electricians, and handypersons etc) but the company’s domestic customer base demographic and service offering is orientated toward the more mature customer – although the level of customer service finds fans across a broad age range.”

Visit The 50plus

Six of the best from Nico

Liz Nicholls

Six by Nico is the newest addition to the Westgate in Oxford. Liz Nicholls was lucky enough to be among the first to try it at the weekend

As the city of dreaming spires (with a wondrous view of them from the top of the Westgate) Oxford is known for its old-school charm.

But when a newcomer to the foodie scene creates a buzz, it’s a real thrill. And when that newcomer is an original foodie fanatic who has made his name in other, bigger, brasher cities before landing here, I’m sniffing about for titbits and tasters.

This is how I found myself absorbing the neon genius of an Irn Bru sorbet with a perfect ‘deep fried mars bar’ (actually a very classy chocolate pave & associated bits) in the intergalactic bonsai zen den at Six By Nico.

If you haven’t been to one of Nico Simeone’s restaurants (there are branches in Leeds, Belfast, London, Cardiff, Birmingham, Manchester and his native Glasgow) the concept is magically enjoyable. For £50 a head you can sit back and relax while you’re served a six-course tasting menu (dietary requirements catered for if you’re that person) that changes every six weeks, drawing inspiration from a memory, place or idea. For an extra £39 you can enjoy an expertly matched wine with each course, which I highly recommend you do.

Now, you might hate a ‘tasting menu’. Weeny portions and a lack of imagination at other restaurants might have given them a bad name, but not here. Thanks to hard graft, his Italian heritage, a flawless service team and a real passion for food, Nico knows exactly what he’s doing. The first menu is ‘the Chippie’, a nostalgic chip shop-inspired half dozen.

This is no bodged assortment of battered bits, instead you’ll find the courses deconstructed and dreamed up as better variations. From the starter, a mindbending parmesan and tatty concoction with curry oil, through the mains including a ‘steak pie’ of meaty magic which arrives in a smoke-filled cloche for a theatrical flourish to that incredible pud, you’re taken on a journey. But, amid a stonking interior (top marks for the amazing banquettes and yellow leather scalloped sofas) the food manages to sing. It’s not fancy for the sake of itself, either, but the flavours and originality should, hopefully mean this place is here for many changing menus to come. Oxford is stony ground for people to take root (as I know, 12 years after landing here myself) so I hope the Westgate crowd take it to their hearts.

I can’t wait for the next one. And, take it from me, you won’t leave hungry or hammered but with a spring in your step.

Bookings from 20th May. Visit Home – Six By Nico

Sophie Davenport’s best bits of Bucks!

Liz Nicholls

For our May vox pop, Sophie Davenport, managing director of Widmer End-based SFE Services, shares her favourite things about local life

Q. Hello Sophie! Could you tell us a bit about yourself?
“I am a mum of two daughters aged 13 and eight. We’ve lived in Holmer Green with my husband Grant for five years now. I’m originally from Maidenhead, and Grant is from High Wycombe.”

Q. What does your company do & what do you have on the horizon?
“SFE Services Air Conditioning & Refrigeration Ltd serves commercial and residential clients in Bucks. This year we’ll be sponsoring and attending the Holmer Green Sports Association Beer Festival, continuing our sponsorship with Wycombe Wanderers Football Club and supporting events for Rennie Grove Peace Hospice Care charity.”

Q. What do you most love about where you live?
“Holmer Green has a lovely village feel. The common has a fantastic playground and is great for the kids to play and for a picnic in the summer. Having shops in the village and close by in Hazlemere is so convenient and saves trips into town.”

Q. What pets do you have?
“A British Bulldog, Lola, a Boerboel called Kion and my daughter has a pony, Jim. Our favourite places to walk or ride are the fields in Little Missenden, Penn Woods and West Wycombe. We take our dogs to Posh Paws in Widmer End and I recommend The Barking Barbers in Stokenchurch.”

Q. What are your favourite restaurants or pubs?
“Old Oak in Holmer Green for the best Sunday roasts! The Hit or Miss in Penn Street, Old Queen’s Head in Penn. Browns & Prelibato in Beaconsfield and Zaza in Amersham.”

Q. What about star businesses?
“Nathan’s fruit & veg in Holmer Green; the staff are super-friendly, and it has a great selection of quality produce. Hildreth Garden Centre in Prestwood is my go-to for a mooch and has a lovely café. The Square café in Holmer Green has the best hot chocolate. I go to Mulberry’s in Beaconsfield when I need pure relaxation! B2 Chalfont Clinic also deserves a shout-out: acupuncturist Kate is second to none.”

Q. Any hidden local gems?
“The bluebells in Penn Woods and Common Wood are a must-see. And the trip wouldn’t be complete without a stop at The Squirrel or Hit or Miss.”

“The bluebells in Penn Woods and Common Wood are a must-see.”

Q. What highlights are you looking forward to later this year?
“Holmer Green Sports Association’s beer festivals in May & August and garage night in September. Hell Fire Caves at Halloween is great fun. Then, at Christmas, visiting Waddesdon Manor with the family.”

Q. Are you a member of any groups?
“BoB [Business Over Breakfast] Club in Wycombe, run by Tina Duggan from Oven Loving. I’ve met so many talented local business owners.”

Q. If you could make one wish for the world, what would it be?
“Id wish for a world free from judgment and full of empathy, where individuals are celebrated for their uniqueness rather than condemned for their differences.”

Summer of love! 2024 festivals guide

Liz Nicholls

Ready to rumble? Liz Nicholls looks at the fabulous festivals on offer this summer, for happy campers & fairweather fans, with tickets up for grabs, too!

Miss out on Glasto tickets!? Never mind: there are so many festivals to choose from, large and small, with something for everyone. And Astonbury might well give Glastonbury a run for its money! Read on…

Cookham Festival, 2nd to 19th May, has a line-up of literary and musical stars, including Lorraine Kelly, Theresa May, Ross Kemp, Will Gompertz, Terry Waite, Stars of the West End with Toby Cruse, Rogue Opera, Formosa Fest, Cantorum Choir, local comedians, The Cookham Ceilidh team and more. Enjoy art, at this community fave;

Immerse yourself in the magic of live classical music with the Investec International Music Festival, with world-class concerts, walks and talks across the Surrey Hills, including RHS Wisley, West Horsley Place & The Menuhin Hall in Stoke d’Abernon 7th-18th May;

The 45th Newbury Spring Festival offers a fortnight of world-class classical music, including the Sheepdrove Piano Competition, 11th-25th May;

Wholesome family favourite WOOD is back at Braziers Park in Oxfordshire, 17th, 18th & 19th May with children’s fun including the marvellous Nick Cope, music and more workshops than you can shake a stick at;

Live music and horse racing is odds-on for a good time, and Newbury Racecourse has both! Firstly, Lovely Laura & Ben Santiago will star at the Lockinge race day on Saturday, 18th May. Then the mighty Sigala will star on 20th July & Dizzee Rascal on 17th August for Party In The Paddock sizzlers!  

An amazing team of volunteers have been working flat out to make the 51st Chippenham Folk Festival, 24th-27th May the best yet. Melrose Quartet, Breabach, Tim Edey, Bruce Hamilton, John Tams, patron John Kirkpatrick & more will star; visit

Chesham Fringe Festival, 25th-27th May, will offer you a vibrant array of local, national and international talent, music, comedy, theatre, cabaret, spoken word, book and poetry readings, food & drink; visit

Sorted for Cheese and Fizz..? That’s not me making yet another (wholesome) reference to Jarvis Cocker’s lyrics. It’s the name of a fantastic local four-piece band who’ll bring their ’90s bops to Shynefest. This fun, family-friendly festival returns to Merrist Wood College in Worplesdon, on 31st May & 1st June. Other stars set to keep all the generations entertained include (the actual) Dodgy, Counterfeit Kylie and The Faux Fighters, with kids’ fun including a climbing wall, Bubble Fairy, football and circus skills, with camping & glamping options. Please visit

Returning to Cheltenham Racecourse for its 18th year wondrous Wychwood will dazzle you with music, comedy, kids’ fun, literature & workshops, 31st May to 2nd June. Sister Sledge, The Coral, Seth Lakeman, Seasick Steve, Dexy’s, Stereo MCs and CBBC’s Hacker T Dog and Katie Thistleton will star;

Witney Music Festival on 7th & 8th June will dazzle The Leys with Lucille & The Lightning Soul Train & more;

The Lightyears will star at Astonbury, 3-11pm on Saturday, 15th June at Aston Rec near Didcot, with a perfect blend of music, family fun, food & drink. Limited £15pp tickets at

Madness, Tom Jones, Nile & CHIC, Placebo, Air, Paloma Faith, Loyle Carner & more will star at Southampton Summer Sessions, in Guildhall Square, 16th-30th June;

Hampton Court Palace Festival is the jaw-dropping backdrop for Tom Jones, Nile & CHIC, Jack Savoretti, Sam Ryder, Björn Again, Sheryl Crow & Paloma Faith, as well as a Tudors live edition of The Rest is History Podcast, 11th-17th June. Visit

Raise vital money for Hampshire Medical Fund by enjoying action-packed, family-friendly highlight Good Festival at Dummer Down Farm near Basingstoke on Sunday, 16th June. Activities include bushcraft, bubble football, alpaca walking, crocodile encounters, yoga and delicious food & drink Visit

Hold tight! The Prodigy and The Streets will help get The Isle of Wight Festival, 20th-23rd June off to a flying start on the Friday. Pet Shop Boys, Green Day, Suede, The Pretenders and Johnny Marr will also star. Visit

Award-winning Beacon Festival, Oxfordshire’s best family-friendly festival, is back at Watlington Hill Farm, 21st & 22nd June with local bands & loads more;

Hold tight! The Prodigy and The Streets will get The Isle of Wight Festival, 20th-23rd June, off to a flying start. Green Day, Suede, and Johnny Marr also star;

Nathan Moore will host another marvellous Marlow Rock Bottom with Coldplace, beer aplenty, family fun, live music, street food on 29th June; visit

Legends The Stranglers will star at Guilfest which returns to Stoke Park, on 29th & 30th June. Other stars on the impressive line-up include Sam Ryder, Peter Hook & The Light, Black Grape and The Blockheads. Please see our competition & visit

I’m still buzzing after my chat with Chaka Khan (see our Q&A). She’ll star at Love Supreme Jazz Festival in Glynde Place, 5th-7th July; You can also catch her and Sister Sledge on 13th June at Blenheim Palace thanks to Nocturne Live. And Soft Cell & Heather Small star here on 14th, Sugababes & Melanie C on 15th with Crowded House & Sheryl Crow on 16th; visit

Run entirely by volunteers on a not-for-profit basis in a stonking Cotswold location, Nibley, 5th-7th July, prides itself on being the friendliest festival of the bunch! General Levy, local legends EMF, The Hoosiers & Dodgy will star, with fun such as retro gaming & The Flying Seagull Project;

Small & mighty Childreyfest will bring you a winning blend of family-friendly music and fun to Childrey in Oxfordshire on Saturday, 6th July:

Celebrating disability lifestyle & inclusivity, the award-winning Parallel Windsor on 7th July, in Windsor Great Park’s Long Walk, will offer live music, storytelling, arts & craft, sport, wellbeing, dance, family fun and more, all accessible, with a quiet space & sensory zone. Tickets just £7.50pp;

Ash, Echobelly, a Goldie Lookin’ Chain DJ set, Republica, Fabio & Grooverider, Dub Pistols and Reading Community Gospel Choir are among the delights at Readipop in Caversham, 12th-14th July, with Purple Turtle bars and an indie market, all for a great cause helping local people;

Gladys Knight, Rylan, Nicole Scherzinger, Nigel Kennedy and Sam Ryder will make for another sparkling riverside black-tie Henley Festival 10th-14th July;

Barrioke (EastEnders’ Shaun Williamson) will star at Fi.Fest in Maidenhead on 13th July, with Cast, Heather Small & Rick Parfit Jnr; And Monty Don, Ronan Keating, Beverley Knight & more will star at Kew the Music, 8th-14th July;

Sadly the organisers of PennFest have made the tough decision (after our May editions of Round & About went to press) not to hold a festival this year, but the Bucks favourite should hopefully return next year!

Fleur Fest is back at The Fleur De Lys in East Hagbourne, 19th-21st July, with Miss Disco, The Style Councillors & more. Plus Ronnie Scott’s All Stars & Fleur Stevenson on 16th June, and AJ Clarke & Richard Digance on 17th August & more!

Raising funds & awareness for mental health in memory of the much-missed Caroline Flack, Flackstock will offer music, dance & comedy galore, including Olly Murs, Joe Wicks, Shaznay Lewis, The Neptunes Choir & a Gok Wan DJ set at Englefield House near Pangbourne on Monday, 22nd July; visit Also at Englefield, enjoy Madness with the Lightning Seeds on Friday, 19th July, Pete Tong’s Ibiza Classics, a Groove Armada DJ set & more on 20th and Elbow on 21st;

WOMAD brings cultural delights from the whole wide world to Wiltshire (Malmesbury’s Charlton Park to be exact) 25th -28th July. Expect a huge array of genres from R&B, rap, rock, blues, punk and jazz all the way to New Orleans brass bands, Qawwali, mambo and flamenco. The line-up includes Young Fathers,  Sampa The Great & Alison Goldfrapp with food galore on the Taste The World stage. You can chill out in style in the World of Wellbeing and WOMAD Spa, plus you can enjoy spoken word in the World of Words, science exploration at World of Physics and fun in the World of Children; visit

Bestival’s little sister Camp Bestival, organised by BBC Radio 1 DJ Rob Da Bank will star Pete Tong with his Ibiza Classics, one of my fave star Q&A interviewees the mighty Paloma Faith, Orbital and manny more at Lulworth Castle in Dorset, 25th-28th July;

Jamie T, Wet Leg, The Streets, Idles, Holly Humberstone, The Snuts and Sub Focus will star at tremendous Truck Festival, 26th-28th July at Hill Farm, Steventon;

Multi Grammy-winning songwriter, composer, producer and guitarist Nile Rodgers & Chic will star at Cheltenham Racecourse on Friday, 26th July, as part of the sizzling Summertime Live highlights; visit

Wilderness will thrill the wild crowd at Oxfordshire’s Cornbury Park, 1st to 4th August, starring Michael Kiwanuka, Faithless, BICEP, Alison Goldfrapp, as well as banquets, wellbeing including lakeside hot tubs and theatre, workshops and more;

Nostalgia ain’t what it used to be! Rewind to a simpler, better time, 16th-18th August in Henley on Thames. Stars set to dazzle include Billy Ocean, The Jacksons, Gabrielle, Jason Donovan, Kim Wilde & more, plus funfairs, a silent disco, inflatable church, kids’ zone and much more. Check out the fabulous Jenny Powell trailer & book at

Inspired by late beloved music-lover Jody Dickinson, J Fest will dazzle in Carswell near Faringdon on 2nd & 3rd August. The highlight, powered by bass, features accessible elements including DJ workshops, glamping & more to prove dance and festivals are for everybody;

Strap in for a Revolution of Imagination with chapter three of Boomtown, 7th-11th August, near Winchester. This fabulous parallel world promises sensory overload, with 12 main stages, 50+ hidden venues, and one red-hot secret line-up. I went for the first time last year and had a blast. (I recommend you book the following week off work). Visit

Dreadzone, Kosheen, Dub Pistols & more will star at wondrous Weyfest at Tilford’s Rural Life Museum 15th-18th August;

Jools Holland & his rhythm & blues orchestra will star at Windsor Racecourse on Friday, 16th August, as part of the sizzling Summertime Live highlights; visit

Groove Armada, Leftfield, Dillinja and more will star at Stowaway, 16th-18th August at Stowe which also offers immersive theatre, comedy, paddleboarding, feasting and a roller disco. See our competition to win tickets & also visit

Fred Again.. Lana Del Rey, Liam Gallagher, Raye, Pendulum and Skrillex are sure to thrill at this year’s Reading (& Leeds), 21st-25th August. Visit

Or head on up to Creamfields in Cheshire 22nd-25th August to rave to Robbie Williams’ dance project Lufthaus, Calvin Harris, Chase & Status live, Tiësto & more;

Shambala in Northamptonshire, 22nd-25th August. This summer’s line-up includes Sampa The Great, The Congos, The Beatbox Collective and a brand new stage show from HENGE; visit

Towersey Festival, which is the UK’s oldest independent music festival, will deliver a new programme of delights for its 60th anniversary celebration, 23rd to 26th August on the Claydon Estate near Buckingham. Comment & Comedy, curated by Gavin Osborn, will offer comedy straight from Edinburgh Fringe, award-winning short films, authors as well as Billy Bragg, The Staves and Seth Lakeman. See our separate article & visit

CarFest lands at Laverstoke Park, 23rd-25th August; You’ll also love Billing, June 29th & 30th, the UK’s largest 4×4 show, with two off-road courses, 100+ trade and autojumble stands and family fun family;

Big Feastival on Alex James’ Kingham farm will serve up family fun, food and frolics, 23rd-25th August. Becky Hill, Ministry Of Sound Classical & Snow Patrol will headline with Raymond Blanc & George Egg on the menu, too. See our competition &

Idles, Slowdive, Bonnie Prince Billie, Ty Seagull, Yo La Tengo & more will dazzle at the award-winning End Of The Road, 29th August to 1st September in Blandford Forum; visit

Beloved Bunkfest is back with bounce in Wallingford, 30th August to 1st September;

Hop down the rabbithole with Congo Natty, General Levy, LTJ Buken, Beans On Toast & more at the Wonderland-themed Mucky Weekender, 5th -7th September near Winchester. Visit

Leftfield, Orbital & more will star at The Last Dance Dreamland in Margate, 14th September, as well as other bangers!

Great Barn Festival returns to Great Coxwell, SN7 7LZ with music, family theatre, art and nature for all; visit

Take care of each other & enjoy! LN

Liam Gallagher photo credit: Gavin Bond

Q&A with music legend Chaka Khan

Liz Nicholls

Liz Nicholls shares a chat with singer Chaka Khan who will star at Nocturne Live at Blenheim in June & Love Supreme festival in Sussex in July

Q. Hi Chaka, wonderful to talk to you! What’s your first memory of music?

“Hello! I was lucky to be born to parents who are artists. I recall hearing a lot of opera and jazz growing up: Billie, Ella… my father played Max Roach a lot. My mother was a dance instructor, she taught modern and ballet, so we did a lot of dancing around the house. We had a big ol’ Zenith hifi and big ol’ speakers and we all sang, danced and did our chores on Saturdays. I thought everybody did that, haha! We had murals, frescoes on every wall in the house. In our bedroom we had a circus scene. In the kitchen we had flowers, fruit. It was great to grow up with art everywhere.”

Q. You’ve worked some greats in your time, including Prince. Are there any other artists you’d love to collaborate with?

“Well I’ve done some stuff with [the R&B star] H.E.R and Sia and I are doing some stuff together.”

Q. How do you decide who to work with? Do you listen to the radio or stream new music?

“Well they [the collab artists] mostly find me! I’m not on any kind of quest, haha! I don’t listen to the radio, no. I listen to as little music as possible because it’s what I do for a living. I think too much and if I listen to music I have a hard time having fun with it. I don’t go out to clubs any more – when I was younger I did a little bit. For me a fun day is doing absolutely nothing, lying on my chaise lounge watching telly, a movie… passive entertainment!”

“I’m not nostalgic, I’m really a next girl”

Q. Do you feel nostalgic looking back on your 50 years in the biz while curating this year’s Meltdown festival?

“No, I’m not nostalgic, I’m really a next girl! I don’t live in the past, I don’t remember a lot. This is a good thing! The only thing I’m interested in is what’s happening in the moment. All we own is this moment right now. And how it’s going to affect what’s going to happen next. I don’t get caught up in things I can’t do nothing about, like yesterday. But I can influence tomorrow.”

Q. What’s been your personal biggest achievement?

“Getting out of the city and moving; leaving LA is the biggest and best thing I’ve done. I’m communing with nature here in Georgia, with all this beauty here. I truly get rest here, I get silence. And I’ve got my family here with me. My mother lives in the east wing, I’ve got my sisters, my nephews.”

Q. You lived in London for 30 years. Did you like living in the UK?

“I loved it but I’m happy now as my neighbours are miles away! I did a lot of great work in the UK, including with the London Philharmonic and worked with a lot of people I’ve loved for years. I’ve lived in many places; Germany, Switzerland… Why?! Well, I live on Earth, the whole planet, that’s the way I look at it! I’ll be in the UK all summer which will be great.”

Q. So many of your songs have been covered many times. Are there are songs that are so precious you wouldn’t want them covered?

“Well I wouldn’t want any of my songs to be copied or covered if they weren’t done well or with the best of intentions, honorably… I don’t want anybody to do a shlock job! But having said that, music is a free agent unto itself – it doesn’t belong to me, it’s for everybody.”

Q. You’re considered one of the great divas. How do you feel about the term ‘diva’ and do you embrace it?

“I know inside what I am. Whatever everybody wants to say about me, so long as it’s in a positive light, I’m happy. Titles don’t mean a lot to me, they do not define me.”

Q. You’ve achieved so much. Anything you still want to do?

“I can’t think of anything else but believe me that doesn’t stop stuff happening. I’m just very open and willing, that’s all I can do. I’ve been doing a lot of talks with children in schools. We have an open floor and they can talk about anything. I’m looking to start doing some podcasts with younger kids, young adults. That’s half of my job right now as a human being. I love my grandchildren and the focus on young people because they’re our future. We owe them a great deal of our time, energy and respect.”

Q. What advice would you give young performers paving their own way?

“Be true to yourself. Honesty is the best policy, even if it hurts! Especially if it hurts: that means it’s meaningful. This is the best thing you can do for yourself and everyone who’s around you.”

Q. How will you cater to a jazz crowd at Love Supreme festival?

“I’m not doing anything specific! I’m a multifaceted singer, I can sing anything. The best thing I’m doing is getting rid of that Queen of Funk s***. I hate to be boxed in. I do as much as is humanly possible on that stage. And everyone’s happy! I’m going to start implementing strings in my show, so I can do To Sir With Love and Big Spender and all that. I’ll be very happy to be doing shows. And I have my hits. I keep it moving, changing, that’s how you keep it interesting.”

Q. What do you think is most challenging about the music industry today for new singers coming into the industry?

“There is so much that needs to change, it’s horrific. First of all how women are set up to compete with one other. There’s no place for competition in self-expression. But often labels count on us [women] being competitive with each other, which is stupid.”

Q, What advice would you have for younger singers and your younger self?

“I think be honest and faithful with yourself and don’t be afraid. You have to keep yourself clear on what your goals are and stay true to yourself, which is a tough thing to do for young people, I think. I control my life and I’ve never let success run away with me. I’ve taken it and ran. The only thing that could threaten my stability is me. I’m my only threat and my own worst enemy. You’ve gotta follow your own path, trust your heart and listen to the warnings. You can’t argue with the universe. It’s not about that. It’s more about relaxing and knowing that you can handle it and feeling empowered. Knowing you have the power to do whatever the hell you want to do! That’s what it’s about. It really is.”

‘Shoellery’ – jewellery for your shoes!

Liz Nicholls

Nadine invites you to lead a charmed life with her 4KIX footwear accessories range

So Nadine, tell us a little more about 4KiX… 4KiX is a British accessories brand that encourages self-expression through fashion, flair and fun! Our mission is to celebrate what makes each of us unique. Inspired by street wear and pop-culture, our “shoellery” personalises the look of any footwear as well as lending itself to accessorise other aspects of an outfit. It’s mindful and versatile with the quality and flair of high end fashion, at more inclusive pricing. 

What exactly is shoellery? Shoellery is basically jewellery for your shoes! We accessorise all the other parts of an outfit, and it’s so much fun to be able to add that touch of personalisation to our shoes as well. The way they attach is our creation and is completely unique to the brand. It’s comfortable, durable and attaches without the need for undoing your laces or straps.

What was your inspiration to start the brand? I’ve had a passion for trainers and jewellery since the moment I could speak and point at sparkly things. In more recent years, I had been obsessing over the trend for sparkly trainers, but hesitant about the high price tags, so I started buying simple trainers and embellishing them myself. I wore them everywhere, even on holiday and wherever I went, I was stopped in the street by people saying: “I love your kicks, where can I buy them?” That was my lightbulb moment where I was initially inspired to design a line of trainers, but then I realised that what I truly loved was accessorising them, and that’s how the idea for the product started to form. 

Who can wear 4KiX? Anyone and everyone. While we seem to have a sweet spot among pre-teens and tweens, we have a broad age range of customers comprising teens, mothers, mothers matching daughters, grandmothers and even some boys. 

When did you hit the U.K. high street? We hit the UK high street this past Christmas 2023 with a very successful pop up at John Lewis on Oxford Street. We featured in their Christmas Shop for the last week before Christmas. It was an honour and a pleasure to make our high street debut with such an iconic retailer on one of London’s most prominent streets for shopping and trends. 

What are your best sellers? We genuinely have so many bestselling styles that we struggle to keep in stock. Among them are: Yummie Gummie, Over the Rainbow, Murakami Me, Say Cheese, Loved Up, Grin-a-bling, all of our evil eye styles, Pucker Up, and Cloud 9. 

Has anyone famous worn 4KiX? Yes, sports presenter & broadcast journalist Kiri Bloore has worn our Evil Eye bracelet and MVP charms. We also have some high profile celebrity customers whose names we can’t reveal out of respect for their privacy, but we can share that they ordered our Loved Up and Eyes on You bundles, which come in our branded boxes that look like candy and make great gifts. 

And what’s your background? My background is PR, but when I moved to the US, I had started pursuing a health coaching certification because I have a passion for helping people. On a visit back to the UK, I stumbled upon my Art History sketch pad in the back of my closet and remembered how much I loved everything artistic. In an effort to deal with the stress of my coaching coursework, I began drawing, designing and crafting. I posted photos of my creations on Instagram and received calls from family and friends saying, “Drop everything and do this!” That’s what planted the seed towards developing the idea for 4KiX. 

What does luxury mean to you? To me luxury is about joy. The joy of discovering pieces that make you smile, feel good, bring out your sparkle. It’s about making you feel pampered and seen. Everyone deserves to feel celebrated. Luxury is about connection, quality and self-expression. Ultimately, it’s our goal to make people smile and help them express what makes them unique. 

You started from a kitchen table, what are your plans to expand in 2024? We currently have a few stockists in locations including USA, Monaco, Bahrain and Holland. Our goal for 2024 is to continue growing with more stockists in more locations throughout the world. We’d love to reach as many audiences as possible, and most importantly, to spread as many smiles as possible.

Check out 4KiX here.

Zone out!

Liz Nicholls

Summer beckons, so why not think how you can best enjoy your outside space, come rain or shine? We speaks to some Bucks specialists who can help you

Picture the scene… The Euros have kicked off and you’re relaxing with friends, a chilled drink in your hand, as the action unfolds on the big screen…

And all of this (delete the hypothetical footie and replace with Wimbledon, the Grand Prix or the Olympics as you wish) in your own back yard. It’s an enticing prospect isn’t it? Well it’s not beyond the realm of possibility, thanks to a lightbulb moment Bob Best had last summer.

While Bob, who runs Herts Pergolas, was with his team admiring their recent handiwork, he noticed that the flat, white surface would make a perfect screen so a projector could be fitted opposite. “Suddenly the penny dropped,” says Bob, who has years of experience across the home counties building conservatories before switching to pergolas in 2022. “I thought: this is the perfect way to make the most of the space, watching the Euros. That’s the dream, in your own garden! You could add a hot tub or whatever floats your boat as well.” 

It’s a popular trend to create outdoor zones to suit a particular purpose which can make a huge difference, even in smaller gardens, where two or three areas work well. Outdoor structures such as pergolas are a great way to define a space and are often easier to achieve than extensions because they usually don’t require planning permission. That’s why pergolas are a fashionable choice with Bob’s customers, taking gardens to the next level.

“The bulk of our team’s work is now pergolas, led by our customers, which is great,” says Bob who lives in Kings Langley. “Our pergolas are made of aluminium, have a polyester powder-coated finish and are available in white or grey, which looks really elegant. They come in three sizes, 3 x 3m, 3 x 4m and 8 x 4m. The roof is fully adjustable, and they come with a full-height blinds and LED lighting with optional remote-controlled heaters and USB sockets to charge phones or devices. What’s genius, too, is they have internal drainage so that inevitable rain drains on to your patio area. It’s the way forward!” Visit

Garden rooms have increasingly become an extension of your home and not just for those who work from home. If you’ve been coveting a beautiful hand-crafted bespoke oak building in your garden or adjoining your home, you’re not the only one! The Artisan Oak team work with clients across Bucks to help you design your dream bespoke space. The company, based just outside Stoke Bruerne, believe oak to be one of the most beautiful materials to use, with raw textures and uncompromisable strength. They also offer a landscaping service and incorporate materials such as glass, stone, brick and other wood, working along side sub-contractors for a hassle-free project. Visit

Seating is also a must, anything from a cute stylish bistro set for a smaller space to a full on comfy garden sofa next to a fire pit.

But, before you start planning your garden layout, you might come across an unsightly stump blocking your way. This is where the Wycombe-based Simply Stumps team step in. Led by owner Scott Howfield, a fully qualified arborist with 25 years of experience and a vast array of five-star reviews, they offer a convenient Whatsapp or online quote system at Scott emphasises the challenge of removing tree stumps due to their extensive root systems, making digging them out nearly impossible. Instead, he recommends stump grinding, which produces fine woodchips that are easy to move and make excellent mulch for the garden. It’s a clean and efficient solution that avoids the hassle of dealing with a leftover stump. Scott also highlights the risk of honey fungus, which can use old stumps as a food source to attack living trees. As he aptly puts it, “it’s most definitely a case of better out than in!”

One thing that’s bound to be a godsend in this country is some sort of shade or cover. The experienced team at Verdec will help you create a fantastic outdoor area with bespoke timber garden structures and buildings, such as summerhouses, offices, adventure playgrounds, decking, hard landscaping and patios. Find out more at

If you’re looking for high-quality long-lasting outdoor furniture covers or gazebo side panels check out family-run, UK-based Kover-it. The team manufacture all types of covers, including for sofa sets, BBQs, pool tables and gazebos. All are bespoke and manufactured to ensure the best fit. Visit

Metal Gates Ltd are manufacturers, fabricators and installers of quality metal gates, railings, garage doors, balustrades and staircases. The family business has over 30 years’ experience in the metalwork industry, they can guarantee quality craftsmanship and a professional service from planning to installation. Contact them on  01628 621974 for a free no obligation quote. More at