Biodiversity Fun

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This May half term, The Lexicon has teamed up with garden and nature specialists Little Muddy Boots, to demystify the meaning of biodiversity for children, in a fun and engaging way.

From Friday, May 24 to Sunday, June 2, 2024, visitors to Bracknell town centre can embark on the Little Things Count trail, where they will discover fascinating facts about bugs, bees, blooms, birds, and butterflies.

In addition to the educational experience, participants have the opportunity to win two fabulous hampers from The Lexicon. On Tuesday, May 28, Berkshire Birds of Prey will grace The Lexicon with their majestic presence, offering visitors an unforgettable close encounter with these magnificent birds. Furthermore, CBBC’s Blue Peter Gardener, Skinny Jean Gardener, will lead a day filled with wildflower seed sowing, education, music, and fun on both Friday, May 31, and Saturday, June 1, 2024.

Little Muddy Boots will host a series of engaging workshops from May 28 to June 1, 2024, providing children with the chance to discover how small actions can make a significant impact on local wildlife. These workshops offer various activities, including exploring, planting, and crafting items such as bug hotels, wildflower seed bombs, and bird snacks to take home.

Sue Boor, head of marketing at The Lexicon, expresses hope that this fun and educational initiative will help children comprehend the crucial roles played by different forms of life in maintaining environmental health. Additionally, a dedicated web page featuring short educational videos and downloadable activity sheets has been created to further children’s learning about bugs, bees, blooms, birds, and butterflies.

For more information about Little Things Count and details on how to book for the different workshops please visit https://www.thelexiconbracknell.com/

Top 5 Solar Installers in Ascot

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Every second, the sun generates 173,000 terawatts ((trillions of watts) of solar energy – more than 10,000 times the Earth’s total energy consumption*. Without solar panels on your roof, all of this free energy from the sun goes to waste.

With solar costs at an all-time low, now is a great time to take advantage of this free energy supply at home. Are you keen to save on your monthly energy bills and become energy independent? Book one of the top MCS-certified solar installers in Ascot / Egham, UK:

1. Soly

Soly is a leading solar installer, rated Excellent on Trustpilot. With over 10 years of experience, Soly offers free virtual consultations and cost-effective solar solutions that can help you save up to £1,300 per year on your energy bills. 

Take advantage of industry-leading warranties including 30-year solar panel, 25-year performance and 10-year workmanship warranties, with fantastic aftercare service beyond installation. Soly is MCS and HIES accredited, Enphase certified, and a Which? Trusted Trader.

If you buy before 30th April, Soly is offering £1,000 off. Book a free consultation today at Soly Energy and quote ‘Ascot’ to claim this discount.

2. Your Energy Your Way

Your Energy Your Way is a female-led solar installer based in Surrey. Established in 2018, the company designs and installs whole-house renewable energy solutions across Hampshire, Berkshire, Surrey, West London and surrounding counties. They provide everything from solar panels and battery storage systems to heat pumps.

Your Energy Your Way offers a 25-year warranty on solar panels, a 10-year warranty on batteries and a five-year warranty on inverters. The installation comes with a workmanship guarantee for two years. The company is MCS-certified. 

3. SogoSolar

Established in 2010, SogoSolar designs, supplies and installs solar panels, battery storage systems and EV chargers. Their focus is on smaller installations for homes and businesses across South East England. 

SogoSolar provides up to a 40-year product and performance warranty on solar panels, a 10-year warranty on batteries and a two-year workmanship guarantee on installation. As a member of the Real Assurance Consumer Protection Scheme (RECC) customers are also protected by an insurance-backed warranty scheme. The company is MCS-certified. 

4. Sphere Energy Solutions

Sphere Energy Solutions is a family-run solar business based in Bagshot, Surrey. Established in 2010, the company supplies and installs solar panels, home battery storage and EV chargers in Ascot, Egham and other areas in Surrey, Berkshire, Hampshire and Greater London.

Sphere Energy Solutions offers a 25-year product and 30-year linear power warranty on solar panels and a 10-year warranty on batteries. The installation comes with a five-year workmanship guarantee. The company is MCS-certified. 

5. Solar Dynamics 

Solar Dynamics designs, installs and maintains solar energy systems in Surrey, including Ascot and Egham. Established in 2001, the company covers the South East of England, including Surrey, Sussex, Hampshire and Kent. 

Solar Dynamics offers a 25-year warranty on solar panels, a 10-year warranty on batteries and a standard two-year workmanship guarantee on installation. The company is MCS-certified and offers solar financing solutions. 

Finding the Best Solar Installers in Ascot / Egham

Finding local solar installers you can trust in Ascot / Egham doesn’t need to be stressful. Plenty of certified contractors are available to provide valuable advice on what’s best for your home, along with a fast, free quote. While the initial investment can be significant, the long-term benefits outweigh the cost, with many homeowners making their money within eight years. 

The top solar installers are MCS-certified and offer high-quality products and long warranties for peace of mind. As your solar panels are a long-term investment (lasting up to 30 years), always look for companies that offer great after-care service beyond the installation period. 

Sources: https://climate.nasa.gov/news/2444/10-interesting-things-about-energy

Under Milk Wood Returns

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Progress Theatre revives the Dylan Thomas masterpiece with a diverse cast

Reading’s Progress Theatre is bringing Dylan Thomas’s Under Milk Wood, originally conceived as a radio drama and ‘play for voices’ to the local stage, a full 70 years after the BBC first commissioned the work, one of its writer’s most enduring and popular.

The play, featuring myriad personalities, invites the audience to hear the innermost thoughts and dreams of the inhabitants of the small, fictional Welsh fishing town of Llareggub (try spelling it backwards!), as it follows the life of the village during one spring day and night in an emotive and often slyly comic account.

Thomas himself described his play’s lyrical language as ‘prose with blood pressure’, and the poetic voice that runs through Under Milk Wood is surely one of the most remarkable things about this work. Make that voices – there are scores of locals, and so, unsurprisingly, Progress’s actors are doubling up to meet the character count.

During the performance, we meet the likes of the blind, seafaring Captain Cat, the two Mrs Dai Breads, the Rev Eli Jenkins, poet and preacher, Mog Edwards the draper, the murderous Mr Pugh and many others. Then, of course, there is the treat of the lyrical narration that runs like a thread throughout.

From the outset, the vision for the Progress production was to make it as inclusive and as diverse possible from the audition stage (back in January) onwards. And doing so has long been a dream for director Ali Carroll and producer Liz Carroll.

The show’s cast of more than 20 actors includes those on the autistic spectrum, one with hearing loss, a wheelchair user and three adult clients of Reading Mencap, where many rehearsals have been held. What’s more, ages among the performers range from 11 to eighty something. So it’s a genuine piece of community theatre. Some are stalwarts of the Berkshire drama scene; others are taking to the stage for the first time.

Inclusion began with making the audition process as accessible as possible, and this philosophy has extended throughout the rehearsal stage so that as many different people as possible feel encouraged to take part, with additional support made available throughout the production.

  • Under Milk Wood runs at Progress Theatre from April 26 until May 4. There will be reduced capacity/relaxed performances on Saturday 27th April and Tuesday 30th April shows. Curtain up is 7.45pm, 4pm Saturdays. Book tickets here.

Time to Shyne

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Get ready for ShyneFest, a fun friendly family event in Guildford on May 31st and June 1st for two days of music and merriment

Imagine having more than 250 people at your 40th birthday – that’s exactly how Shyne Adcock celebrated her milestone in 2015 and since then ShyneFest has grown to welcome many hundreds more.

The Friday kicks off with tribute acts Faux Fighters, The Marley Experience and Counterfeit Kylie and returning after their success at WynterFest 2023 are Sorted for Cheese and Fizz bringing their 90s Britpop and indie classics.

Saturday has more music than you could well, shake a drum stick at, and if it’s Good Enough for them, it’s good enough for me as Dodgy are back and this time are they Staying Out for the Summer? And that’s not all with another 16 acts lined up to entertain from 11am through to 11pm – 12 hours of brilliant music to get you up on your feet and having fun!

There’s fun for the young ones in the Kidz Zone with a climbing wall, bubble fairy, football, little racers, circus skills workshops, face painting, glitter tattoos and hair sparkles, story time and stilt walkers.

If you’re having so much fun you don’t want it to end how about camping or glamping the two nights at Merrist Wood. Turn up the glam with a two, four or six person canvas tent,  either traditional Bell tents or the elegant Touareg tents, in the style of the Nomadic tribes of North Africa. Camel Camp build lovely camps at all kinds of events, complete with a reception tent and central meeting, seating and shade areas as well as tea, coffee and cereal to get you started.

Choose a Classic or Sultan style, both with floor rugs, door mats, airbeds and solar lights with full bedding, camp chairs, side tables and more in the Sultans.

To find out more and book visit ShyneFest.uk

Zone out!

Karen Neville

Ascot

You’ve done all the preparation and your garden is good to be ‘glammed up’ all ready for you to sit back and relax and enjoy the summer

Courtyard, green oasis, large and luscious, small and secluded – whatever type of garden you have you’ll want to make it work for you and its place in your life.

A popular option is to create zones or spaces designed to suit a particular purpose and this can be achieved with thought out planning even in smaller gardens where two or three areas works well, perhaps create a larger focal zone with one or two smaller ones, it will largely depend on how you use your garden space.

Most of us want a relaxation area, somewhere to lie back perhaps on a lounger or even in a swing seat or hammock if there’s room and you’re likely to want an entertaining / dining area too. Perhaps you work from home and a garden room offers you somewhere to escape to or is it an ideal place for the kids to chill out?

Let’s sit back and relax and consider the choices – patio and / or decking are a good place to start, make space for both if you can and you’re creating zones without realising it. Seating is  a must, chairs and a table, anything from a cute stylish bistro set for a smaller space to a full on comfy garden sofa taking the indoors out and wooden table and chairs fit for a banquet. How about an egg chair or a padded bench if you need extra or occasional seating, you may find that once you’ve created your zones, the seating falls into place naturally. Need more relaxation and the ultimate chill zone? Soothe away the day in a hot tub.

Summer is the time to entertain al fresco and enjoy the fruits of your hard work with friends and family. Once you’ve decided on your seating go a step further and explore your dining options, do you like nothing better than the sizzle of a burger on the BBQ, like to mix up your toppings on a pizza oven or will only a full-on outdoor kitchen feed your need?

Garden rooms have increasingly become an extension of your home and not just for those who work from home. Always wanted to run your own business but not sure where you’d do it, they make the ideal space for a beauty salon or dog grooming parlour. They’re a great way to gain an extra room without the cost of moving or an extension. Channel your inner peace and indulge in some me time with a yoga studio, pop the kids in for a playroom or creative types will enjoy setting up their easel or instruments there.

One thing that’s pretty much a necessity in this country is some sort of shade or cover. Awnings and sails add a decorative touch and are available in a variety of styles and colours. If you’re after a more permanent fixture then pergolas and gazebos will add a stylish touch either to house your furniture or as a shelter.

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 to help you design your dream bespoke space. The company 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 artisan-oak.com

Looking for finishing touches to complete your masterpiece? A fire pit will help ward off any chills while lighting will allow you to enjoy your haven late into the night.

Using traditional techniques dating back 4,000 years and hand thrown on the wheel in Crete, these quality pots are fired at 1,150 degrees centigrade, guaranteeing quality and durability, ensuring they are frost proof to endure our winters. Order online at cretepots.com or visit the Crete Pots showroom displaying over 150 pots in the heart of Hampshire.

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 metalgatesltd.com

Want to live more sustainably? The Festival of Sustainable Homes, May 17th and 18th at the National Self Build & Renovation Centre, Swindon SN5 8UB, offers advice on improving the energy efficiency of new build and existing homes. Exhibits, seminars, live demos and expert advice will all be on offer at the Good Energy sponsored event. Find out more at nsbrc.co.uk/whats-on/our-events/the-festival-of-sustainable-homes

The door to dreams

Karen Neville

Ascot

Stepping into a bookshop is like catching up with an old friend, the familiarity and love come flooding back and yet you just know there will be something new to discover. Karen Neville invites you to step inside these independent havens of literature…

As a child I loved pushing open the big wooden door on the bookshop in the town where I grew up to be greeted by an Aladdin’s cave of words wrapped in colourful covers.

There was a whole world waiting to be discovered that ate up much of my pocket and birthday money. The delight I felt when collecting the special copy of Ballet Shoes I’d ordered and handing the assistant the piece of paper with the details felt like I was joining a very special club – the bookshop club.

Sadly that shop is no longer but fortunately for all of us bibliophiles according to the Booksellers Association at the end of 2022 there were 1,072 independent bookshops sharing the love I treasured.

The dream of running a bookshop is a popularly held one and for Alex Forbes it came true in 2020 with the name Fourbears coming from a nickname. They host a wide range of events, book clubs and writing clubs and are happy to chat all day long about books. So be warned, there’s no such thing as just popping into Fourbears in Caversham. Their book subscription service is the perfect gift for the book lover in your life or just a regular treat for yourself. Look out for Fourbears Fest, May 17th to 19th, the first Reading and Caversham Book Festival featuring a range of events for adults and children in multiple venues.

RISC World Shop in the fairtrade shop in London Street, Reading, focuses on sustainable living, human rights, climate change and green living and their selection is carefully curated and ever-evolving and features many of the local interest titles published by Reading star Two Rivers Press. They typically sell books on politics, economics, sustainability, gender, human rights, world fiction, children’s books, gardening, cooking, places, black issues, women, feminism, lbtgq+, local interest development, school books as well as publishing their own titles for schools.

Even the most hard to please reader will find something among the more than 20,000 books adorning the shelves of The Bell Bookshop, Henley. Find hidden gems among the paperbacks, hardbacks and classics, biographies, travel guides, cookery, history, children’s and many many more. This destination bookshop has been feeding the appetite of book lovers around Henley and beyond since 1966 with the shop itself dating back to the 18th century – I’ll bet it has some stories to tell.

You’ll probably recognise Roald Dahl’s Matilda outside The Book House, Thame which has a fascinating story behind it, as does Fat Puffin, a gift from Puffin Books to mark the opening in 1972 as one of the first specialist children’s books in the country – he could write a book about his ‘adventures’ since he’s been standing sentry. Through the shop discover the bookshop’s very own ‘secret garden’, take a seat and dip into your new book. Books range from first books for babies to young adult reads while adults aren’t forgotten with more than enough to sate their appetites too.

Here’s a bookshop with a difference, Newbury Bookshelf is a mobile shop which pops up at Newbury Market on Thursdays and Saturdays and Thatcham market on Fridays. Creator Emily had always wanted to have her own bookshop having worked in one while at uni and has turned her dream into a reality thanks to her innovative approach. Pick her brain for recommendations and you won’t be disappointed, just look out for the blue canopy.

Hungerford Bookshop has attracted such literary luminaries as Robert Harris, Alexander McCall Smith, Sebastian Faulks and Gill Hornby to their events and this month will be enjoying crime and wine with Adele Parks (3rd) and fizz and fiction with Georgina Moore and Becky Hunter on the 24th. All their books are hand-picked with care, and they love to recommend their favourite titles. Come and have a browse including in the basement where you’ll find an impressive array of secondhand and antiquarian books. Join the book subscription service and benefit from their expertise choosing books based on the recipient’s reading tastes or preferred genres.

Founded more than 75 years ago, White Horse Bookshop still operates from its original site in Marlborough where it opened its doors in 1949. Alongside the thousands of titles that line the shelves they also have an extensive art department stocking all manner of materials, run one day art workshops, hold exhibitions and talks in the White Horse Gallery at the rear of the premises.

As author Evie Woods writes in her novel The Lost Bookshop: “The thing about books… is that they help you to imagine a life bigger and better than you could ever dream of.”

Show your support for independent bookshops in Independent Bookshop Week, June 15th to 22nd, part of the Books Are My Bag campaign, an annual celebration of independent bookshops nationwide, and the role they play in their communities.

The Runnymede is having a makeover…

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The Runnymede on Thames Hotel and Spa remains open, book your Summer stay at Runnymede and enjoy the outdoor pool and boats from the 5th May

Eagle-eyed locals & spa-lovers might have noticed that The Runnymede is being refurbished. With Warner Hotels now offering breaks from later on this year, we wanted to share a sneak peek of what’s to come in the autumn…

All 205 rooms will have a stylish new look with characterful artwork that reflects the history and natural beauty of the surrounding area. Fans of The Runnymede, which overlooks the Thames, will be pleased that the signature duck association will remain! There will also be 25 newly built rooms and those overlooking the river will have the added luxury of balconies.

There will be a choice of two restaurants – Market Kitchen and Brasserie32. Market Kitchen will replace Leftbank and will feature a deli bar, fresh fish counter and a roast of the day, carved to order. At the other side of the property, Brasserie32 will be located in the former Lock Bar & Kitchen with a menu filled with British classics. The property will also feature The Coffee Nest, an informal setting for sweet treats, tea and coffee, alongside further bars and lounges.

Those who would otherwise visit London for the theatre won’t be disappointed, as the hotel will host a diverse programme of entertainment in the new Live Lounge. From comedians to tribute acts and party bands, every stay promises an impressive line-up of unique shows.

The Runnymede remains the go-to place for R&A, with treatments to help put a spring in your step, including the highly recommended Salt & Polish Scrub: a thorough body exfoliation followed by an application of nourishing body oil to leave the skin smooth and free of dry skin.

Alongside plenty of entertainment, there will be ample time for R&R at the spa with pools, a sauna, steam room, state-of-art gym, studio room for yoga and other fitness classes, a relaxation lounge, and an extended wellness programme. This is in addition to a range of soothing treatments designed to nourish your mind, body, and soul. From May to September (weather permitting), guests will also have use of the outdoor pool with sun loungers.

There will also be activities to choose from including tennis, archery, laser pistol shooting, tasting experiences and cooking demos. During the summer months, there will also be boat hire available from the property’s private jetty. So much to look forward to!

Not forgetting the Runnymede’s complimentary shuttle service to and from Windsor!

Breaks are available to book online for autumn onwards. In the mean time the hotel will continue to operate as an independent property for stays, dining and spa treatments and days, though the team do advise that the hotel might not be looking its best while construction work is going on.

For spring and summer bookings book directly with The Runnymede; The Runnymede on Thames | Windsor Spa Hotel | Egham Hotel (runnymedehotel.com)

The magic of Pratchett

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Marc Burrows is bringing his celebration of Terry Pratchett to Norden Farm

Author, comedian and Terry Pratchett fan, Marc Burrows invites audiences to celebrate the 40th anniversary of the landmark comic fantasy Discworld series with his beautiful tribute.

In 2020, Marc penned the first ever biography of Sir Terry. The book received critical acclaim, won a Locus Award and was embraced by fans. This new, live multimedia show, based on the book, was then created with the full endorsement and support of Narrativia, the company founded to protect and promote the late author’s work in association with his estate.

The Magic of Terry Pratchett is a comic lecture in which Burrows explores Pratchett’s influences, his rise to fame, impact, and unique life, becoming one of the most beloved storytellers of all time. From the national treasure’s days as a school librarian, his time as a trainee journalist to his untimely death in 2015 and in keeping with Pratchett’s own style, the show is a gently comic celebration and exploration of his work. It will also seriously examine his death, and the activism he was involved with toward the end of his life surrounding dementia treatment and the right-to-die; an important part of his story and legacy.

In addition to using the framework of the The Magic of Terry Pratchett book, the show incorporates additional elements of Rob Wilkins’ official biography, Terry Pratchett: A Life in Footnotes, (A Sunday Times Bestseller) as well as licensed media.

Sir Terry Pratchett OBE is one of the world’s most widely read authors. Conventions dedicated to his work are held globally every year. His works have been translated into 40 different languages, sold 100 million copies and have been performed on stage on seven continents. John Lloyd was right when he said “of all of the dead authors in the world, Terry Pratchett is the most alive”. Pratchett’s short story The Abominable Snow Baby was adapted by Channel 4 as a Christmas Day animation in 2021. Sky released a feature film adaptation of his Carnegie Award winning book The Amazing Maurice in cinemas in 2022, and Good Omens, a TV series based on the book Pratchett wrote with Neil Gaiman, will have a second Amazon Prime season in the autumn.

Marc Burrows often writes on culture and social issues for The Guardian, New Statesman, Big Issue and Independent and his Edinburgh Fringe shows include The Ten Best Songs of All Time and Mind Your Head. Marc’s second book, The London Boys: David Bowie, Marc Bolan and the 60s Teenage Dream was published to considerable acclaim in 2022 and is in the early stages of adaptation into a feature-length documentary. Outside of writing and comedy, Marc plays in the cult punk band The Men That Will Not Be Blamed For Nothing, regularly performing at the Download, Glastonbury, Bestival and Latitude festivals and touring the UK and US.

The Magic of Terry Pratchett is at Norden Farm on 28th March.
Tickets are available here.

Meet Crosfields’ Head of Early Years

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We are pleased to introduce you to Miss Hannah Saunders, the dedicated Head of Early Years at Crosfields School

Miss Saunders commitment to ensuring a transformative educational experience for children makes her a beacon in early childhood education.

What is your philosophy on early childhood education?

‘’Our philosophy on Early Years at Crosfields School is to deliver the richest early educational experiences for our children, ensuring that we are keeping up to date with the evolving changes, latest research, and any recommendations about Early Years Development, in order to offer a high level of quality learning.’’

How do you ensure the well-being and safety of the children in your care?

‘’Children’s well-being and safety is fundamentally one of the most important aspects. In the school day we ensure we have a good level of structure and regular routines; we ensure children have a good understanding about healthy eating, and ensure children are exposed to a balanced diet.  Alongside the EYFS statutory guidelines, we also give children the knowledge, understanding and opportunity to be able to grow, develop, and take appropriate risks through physical play.’’

Can you describe your approach to fostering a supportive and inclusive learning environment?

‘’In every classroom we create opportunities to ensure every child has a voice. Every teacher is aware of specific needs of each individual child. We understand that children have different learning styles and, through effective planning, we ensure we are meeting every child’s need.’’

How do you engage with parents and families to create a strong partnership in the child’s early development?

‘’Parents are their child’s first and more enduring educators so, as an Early Years department, we ensure we create strong relationships with parents.

“We work together to support parents with their child’s learning by offering parents’ evenings as well as inviting parents into Crosfields for presentations and events throughout the year. We also have an open door policy and parents can talk to their child’s teacher every day. We use an online platform where both parents and teachers can upload important milestones and share a child’s interest, which enables the adults to engage on these topics with the child and offer similar experiences which will help further a child’s development.’’

Raffle to support Berkshire Music Trust

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Help to raise the necessary funds to continue their work and maybe win some great prizes

“Making music for everyone” is at the heart of what Berkshire Music Trust do as a registered music charity with the aim of providing musical opportunities for all. They run various activities across Berkshire including lessons, ensembles, early years classes and adult opportunities including singing cafes for people with Dementia and Parkinson’s across Berkshire community. They also have music centres in Reading, Newbury, Windsor, Bracknell, Wokingham and Caversham, and they also teach in Berkshire schools.

The Music Trust are running an online fundraising raffle and the money raised from this raffle will help to raise the necessary funds to continue their work.

There are over 45 prizes currently all from organisations across Berkshire, and tickets are only £2! (Winners drawn on 19th March) Follow this link to join the raffle, you’ll also find displays of the prizes.