Baby steps to better world

Liz Nicholls

Buckinghamshire

Lucy Todd tells us about her journey from journalism to founding sustainable children’s clothing site My Little Green Wardrobe which has just turned one

Within a year, I went from being a mother of two with a steady job (and income), to the owner of an online business start-up in sustainable baby and childrenswear.

I have no background in fashion, sustainability or e-commerce. So what prompted such madness? Well, it started with a pair of wellies.

I learned of the impact the textile and fashion industry was having on the environment in my job at BBC News. The fashion industry is the third-largest manufacturing sector in the world, and one of its most carbon-intensive and polluting. It is also responsible for some of the most appalling working conditions, with child labour and forced labour among the litany of abuses. The change towards fast fashion over recent years has only made these problems worse.

While reducing my clothing consumption was fairly easy (after all, I already had a wardrobe of clothes that fit me), it wasn’t quite so simple for my children. They grow. ALL. THE. TIME.

My Little Green Wardrobe sells only brands that act more ethically than the current norm.

Deciphering the more sustainable brands from those that were greenwashing was hard. It took me a whole afternoon to buy just two products – a pair of wellies and a puddlesuit – from brands I was happy with. I’d gone down so many internet rabbit holes checking a brand’s ethos, where they manufactured, materials etc… Each time, I found the product or brand weren’t as planet-friendly as they made out. Why wasn’t there a website that sold only ethical and more sustainable kids clothing from pre-vetted brands? And when I eventually bought those wellies (from a lovely Swedish brand, by the way), I decided that’s what I’d do.

My Little Green Wardrobe sells only brands that act more ethically than the current norm. I’ve come a long way since buying those wellies, when I felt like I needed a degree in materials science to understand the info some brands were giving. I’ve tried to make sustainability accessible to explain what brands are doing to improve their impact across the supply chain.

And don’t just take my word for it. Whether it’s organic cotton or recycled materials, all the brands I work with are certified, or use materials certified, by third-party organisations that guarantee environmental and social criteria. There is no perfectly “sustainable” item. – we’re looking for progression, not perfection.

What I lack in knowledge, I make up for in passion. And, if in doubt, to fall back on my old journalistic training: to ask questions. That’s what I’d urge you to do of the ethical brands you shop from too. After all, without transparency, there can be no sustainability.

Find out more

To shop My Little Green Wardrobe see their website mylittlegreenwardrobe.com

Summer dining at The Oarsman, Marlow

Karen Neville

Buckinghamshire

The perfect place to enjoy lunch or dinner in the sunshine

The Oarsman, the recently-opened Bistro-pub situated in the riverside town of Marlow is looking forward to welcoming you to enjoy its new outdoor terrace and summer menu.

The Oarsman is a contemporary Bistro Pub & Wine Bar on Spittal Street which serves bistro-style seasonal dishes from the open kitchen and small plates from the charcuterie and larder counter for lunch and dinner.

The stunning new  terrace is now open for drinks, small plates and dining every day which you should be able to enjoy now enveloped in sunshine.

A strong environmental ethos and pledge to support local suppliers where possible will ensure The Oarsman will serve the finest, seasonal produce.

Heading up the kitchen is chef Scott Smith (previously Head Chef at Sugar Boat, Scotland) who has created a menu which honours the very best of British, giving the occasional nod to Scottish and Mediterranean influences and using locally sourced, seasonal ingredients that champion small producers.

Smith’s menu brings his Michelin-starred training to bear – diners can expect elevated bistro-classics such as Potted shrimp, crumpet & pickled cucumber, Trotters, bacon & beef dripping or Moules marinere with fries.

If you like your wine, there’s an extensive list of fine & rare wines, as well as a wide range of wines by the glass.

A strong environmental ethos and pledge to support local suppliers where possible will ensure The Oarsman will serve the finest, seasonal produce.

Find out more

Visit The Oarsman’s website (theoarsman.co.uk) for more details.

Wild Watlington

Liz Nicholls

Buckinghamshire

Nicola Shafer tells us how her love of the natural world led her to the publication of her new book

We are lucky to have beautiful natural local habitats. From our precious chalk grasslands to our rare chalk streams, from the beech woods filled with bluebells and wild garlic, to our ancient hedgerows rich with native species, to old oak trees and meadows, to the gardens and green spaces in the town.

My love of wildlife started as a child, encouraged by my parents and grandparents and a small flowerpress. However it is only since I got involved with the Green Plan, a collaboration between Watlington Climate Action Group and other local groups interested in conservation that I realised how much I didn’t know about ecology. I joined Watlington Environment Group and started to learn the names of flowers, the types of insects, the song of our birds and the importance of our chalk stream. Last year, I acquired a macro lens with which to take better photographs of our local wildflowers, and a whole new world of beauty opened up in front of my eyes. Previously on walks I might notice the flowers in passing but now, stopping to take a closer look the variety, colour, and structure of these wildflowers astounds me. Looking closer you often see that a single flower can be home to various small insects, and a food source or a resting place for a bee or a butterfly.

Thank you to Watlington Library for displaying Eleanor’s artwork from the book in July, and to The Granary Café for hosting an exhibition last month.

Wild Watlington, The Creatures of Watlington Parish is a tour of just some of what can be found on our doorstep. Written as a story book, it is full of information that will be appreciated by young and old alike, as we find out about the habitats that make up our landscape, and the creatures that share it. The book was illustrated by young artist Eleanor Short, who is a Year 8 student at Icknield Community College. Thank you to Watlington Library for displaying Eleanor’s artwork from the book in July, and to The Granary Café for hosting an exhibition last month.

In the last year, with the aid of apps, my grandmother’s guide to wild flowers, and patient friends with more knowledge than me, I’ve been able to learn a fair proportion of the flowers I find on the local hills and verges. In times gone past, we were intimately acquainted with the plants around us – what was edible, what was not, what could be used for a medical treatment, what could be used for warding off evil spirits, and what smelt good when added to bedding. Now most of us don’t even know the names! As a society we have lost so much of this knowledge, but it is worth the effort to reclaim it. Looking closer and recognising the flowers and plants around us bring a greater understanding and connection to our natural world and with it a greater desire to protect and restore it.

Around Watlington my favourite places for wildlife spotting are:

1. The Chilterns way through Greenfield and College Woods is beautiful and I often see deer there

2. Incredible wild flowers can be seen on the chalk grass of the Aston Rowant Nature Reserves

3. The Chalk Pits at the bottom of Watlington Hill is a quiet retreat to listen to birdsong

4. The Paddock behind Watlington Library is beautifully planted with pollinator friendly plants, a great place to spot different types of bees and butterflies

5. Watlington’s historical chalk streams and spring fed ponds such as the Willow Pond and Horse Pond host amphibians, invertebrates, ducks, and occasionally a water vole.

Get your copy

The book is on sale at So Sustainable on Watlington High Street, priced at £5, and limited edition prints are available at wildwatlington.uk

Music to pianists’ ears

Karen Neville

Buckinghamshire

Pianoz.com opens a new flagship store on Maidenhead High Street

High-end piano store Pianoz.com has opened its flagship store on Maidenhead High Street. The new shop in the Old Post Office will add to the extensive retail offering in the area.

Spread across two floors, this new location offers one of the largest displays of high-end pianos in the country. Pianoz.com has around 300 pianos on display, from Steinway, Bosendorfer, and Yamaha to a selection of new digital instruments. Locals can ‘tinkle the ivories’ of exceptional antique and bespoke pianos, instruments of historical significance, and even some from blockbuster films.

Even if you are not buying a piano, you can still visit and make use of these interactive spaces

The flagship store also features a flexible performance space with two Steinway concert grands, practice rooms, a YouTube recording studio and teaching facilities – which are already being used by local community groups. Pianoz.com has plans to host events and masterclasses for local schools, with some of the top concert pianists and pop musicians who have purchased pianos from the brand, as well as lunchtime recitals and other events further down the line.

Pianoz.com owner, Adam Harper said: “We are thrilled to have opened our flagship store on Maidenhead High Street in this wonderful location. For us, this space is more than just a store, the outstanding facilities we have incorporated, such as the practice rooms, YouTube recording studio and teaching facilities mean that even if you are not buying a piano, you can still visit and make use of these interactive spaces.”

Book your visit

Pianoz at the Old Post Office is currently open on an appointment-only basis to give customers one-to-one attention and the opportunity to play the instruments without distraction. Appointments available on 0203 888 0880 or noz.com

Cliveden Literary Festival revels speakers

Karen Neville

Buckinghamshire

The stunning Berkshire stately home will once again welcome a wealth of authors for the festival in October

A stellar line-up is being assembled for this year’s Cliveden Literary Festival which returns on October 15th and 16th at the iconic stately house in Berkshire.

This year’s festival features expert panels on Putin’s Russia, chaired by Simon Sebag Montefiore, and Zelensky’s Ukraine, with Serhii Plokhy and Anne Applebaum; Vogue’s editor-in-chief Edward Enninful on his rise to the top of the fashion world; a constellation of all-star novelists on their craft; expanding history’s horizons with William Dalrymple and Peter Frankopan; Succession’s Brian Cox on becoming Logan Roy; and Louise Perry daring to question the sexual revolution.

Renowned as a forum for lively discussion, innovative ideas, and political debate, the Cliveden Literary Festival has been described by Ian McEwan as ‘probably the world’s best small literary festival,’ and by Alain de Botton as ‘the most dignified and beautiful literary festival on the planet’.

Daniel Spiller has reached the finals in the Schwarzkopf Professional Colour Technician of the Year category and now awaits his fate at a black-tie event on November 28th at Grosvenor House, Park Lane, London.

The stylists submitted four photographs each demonstrating the breadth of their hairdressing expertise, showcasing evidence of both technical skill and creative ability. They will now submit a further four images for the final round of judging, which takes place in September.

A stellar line-up is being assembled for this year’s Cliveden Literary Festival

Run by a committee of writers and historians – Andrew Roberts, Natalie Livingstone, Catherine Ostler and Simon Sebag Montefiore – the Cliveden Literary Festival draws on Cliveden House’s unique history as a literary salon frequented by writers and thinkers including Alexander Pope, Alfred Lord Tennyson, George Bernard Shaw, Jonathan Swift and Sir Winston Churchill.

Natalie Livingstone, Chairman of the Cliveden Literary Festival, said: “We’re delighted to announce some of the speakers who will be joining us at the Cliveden Literary Festival this October. As ever, this year’s festival will see our fascinating line-up of speakers discuss – and at times fiercely debate – the most pressing issues of our era.”

Monica Ali • Brian Cox • Peter Frankopan • Edward Enninful • William Boyd • Anne Applebaum • Robert Harris • William Dalrymple • Clarissa Ward • Sebastian Barry • Abi Morgan • Serhii Plokhy • Olesya Khromeychuk • Louise Perry • Jonathan Freedland • Howard Jacobson • Tina Brown • Ben Okri • Mark Galeotti • Julia Samuel • Merve Emre • David Nott • Katy Hessel • Radek Sikorski • Yana Peel • Flora Yuchnovich • Michael Gove • Andrea Marcolongo • Inaya Folarin Iman • Daisy Dunn • Nadhim Zahawi • Robert Hardman • Wesley Kerr • Sam Leith • Joanne Cash • Jonathan Haslam • Mikhail Zygar Harry Mount • Antonia Romeo • Luke Johnson • Albert Read • Octavius Black • Simon Heffer • Andrea Elliott • Lucasta Miller • Alice Thomson • Camilla Tominey • Roy Foster • Wyre Davies • Natalie Livingstone • Simon Sebag Montefiore • Catherine Ostler • Andrew Roberts

More info...

A sell-out success every year, tickets are on sale now clivedenliteraryfestival.org

Thame Food Festival bursary winner announced

Karen Neville

Buckinghamshire

Popular food festival runs on September 24th & 25th and this year more than 180 artisan producers are set to take part

Hartley’s Cookery School, based in Haddenham, has been awarded the Thame Food Festival bursary for 2022.

The bursary, reinstalled after sponsorship by Pinkster Gin, was established a few years ago to celebrate and promote newly-formed artisan food business within a 30-mile radius of Thame.

Hartley’s Cookery School aims to offer cookery class and chef table experiences which explore food, why certain ingredients or techniques are used and how to prepare and cook it. While also creating an environment that is fun and appealing for everyone – whatever their ability.

Creating an environment that is fun and appealing for everyone

Simon Hartley, Chef and owner of Hartley’s Cookery School said of the win: “I am delighted to be receiving this bursary and the support of the team at Thame Food Festival. Since opening our doors at Bradmoor Farm in January it’s been amazing to welcome and cook with our first guests at the school. We want to be a community-led business and have so enjoyed building relationships with other food producers and suppliers. Our vision for the school is to share my knowledge and passion for food in a relaxed environment, offering fun-filled courses for all abilities. Whether you’ve never picked up a knife or are a seasoned foodie, there’s something for everyone!”

The bursary includes an award of £1,000, a free pitch at this year’s Thame Food Festival, content in the festival programme, the opportunity to have an interview in the Food Glorious Food marquee and help with PR and social media.

Previous winners have included Ozi Lala, who has gone on to win Great Taste awards for his unique food products and the original winner was Lisa Hartwright of Tess’ Brilliant Bakes. Both of whom are going from strength to strength and still play an active part in the food festival too.

Supporting young businesses that have the same ethics as the festival is an important part of what we try to do

Patron and event co-ordinator Lotte Duncan said: “We are delighted to be in a position to offer a bursary again – thanks to Pinkster Gin. As a Community Interest Company, supporting young businesses that have the same ethics as the festival is an important part of what we try to do. It was such a pleasure to meet Simon and his partner and hear what they are trying to achieve by giving people friendly, fun cookery courses while learning about the provenance of their food.”

What will he spend the bursary on? Simon said: “As we have only been trading for just over five months, we are looking to use the bursary to invest in upgrading our website, signage and professional photography. Plus, use the support of the judges to broaden awareness of us and explore how we can potentially look at supporting initiatives in the community too.”

Find out more about them at Hartley’s Cookery School and to book tickets for the festival go to Thame Food Festival

It’s come home – at last!

Round & About

Buckinghamshire

Now it’s over to you… be inspired by our Lionesses and get involved in football where you are, whatever your age and ability

Football has come home, it’s taken 56 years to win a major honour but it was well worth waiting for as England women’s captain Leah Williamson lifted the Womens Euros 2022 trophy at Wembley on Sunday.

The amazing achievement of beating eight-times winners Germany 2-1 was immense and while many backed the Lionesses as the favourites for the tournament on home soil, the result is truly outstanding and the women deserve all the plaudits and honours that will come their way.

One of the key aims for The FA and the England Women has been ensuring that this fabulous celebration of football creates a legacy for future generations and encourages as many women and girls as possible to get involved in the beautiful game.

Whatever your age and ability, football is for all and offers a huge opportunity for women and girls to engage in a healthy lifestyle through football, promoting both physical activity and mental health benefits too.

Follow in the Lionesses’ footsteps there are many options open to you.

Whether you just want to have a kick about with your mates, have a go at walking football or want to join a local club and perhaps follow in the Lionesses’ footsteps there are many options open to you.

There’s never been a better time to get involved in football and with the FA’s Gameplan for Growth aiming to double participation, Berks & Bucks FA has a number of initiatives for you to join in.

Girls aged 5-11 can become a Weetabix Wildcat, non-competitive football for girls who want to give it a go for the very first time or want to play with other girls their own age. Most importantly, Weetabix Wildcats is all about having loads of fun and meeting new friends. Join a youth club or leagues across the counties and further your skills or just enjoy the physical and social benefits for fun.

And it’s not just for girls, there’s a wealth of options for women at club and recreational level too. More at www.berks-bucksfa.com/players/women

Get involved!

As several players and commentators said after the epic win, this has to be the start of something even more special.

Marlow Best Kept Village

Liz Nicholls

Buckinghamshire

Congratulations to Marlow, Best Kept Village!

Marlow has been awarded a certificate of merit in Buckinghamshire’s annual Best Kept Village Competition — “fully deserved” according to the competition’s administrator.

The judges’ comments included: “Excellent floral displays – strong community effort – in Jubilee colours”, “Areas around shops and pubs were to a very high standard” and“Good evidence of community effort in the town”.

“Excellent floral displays – strong community effort – in Jubilee colours”, “Areas around shops and pubs were to a very high standard” and“Good evidence of community effort in the town”.

Mayor Richard Scott said: “We’re delighted with the merit for Best Kept Village — the competition is fierce. I’m particularly impressed with the judges’ comments about community effort and would like to thank residents, businesses and Council workers for keeping our town clean and beautiful.”

Founded in 1957, the Best Kept Village Competition’s objective is to encourage entrants to work together as a community, involving all age groups, to make villages and towns more attractive places, not only for residents but also for visitors. The winner was Stony Stratford, with Wendover the runner-up.

An American Perspective in West Wycombe

Liz Nicholls

Buckinghamshire

This August, at long last, after three years of holding no exhibitions, the West Wycombe Art Group (WWAG) are pleased to welcome you to their popular Annual Summer Exhibitions in August, Trevor Baker tells us.

This year our featured artist, DeeDee Nash Ruffo Nash, offers an American perspective on the local scene.

Where DeeDee started

DeeDee Ruffo Nash began her artistic life in Grade 1 at St Joseph’s School in Norwich, Connecticut USA when she won a prize for one of her paintings. This very early success must have inspired her to pursue a life which has always held art as an important and integral part because she went on to complete a diploma in Commercial Art at the Paier School of Art in Newhaven Connecticut.

Not only is she an active participant in drawing and painting but she embraces music as well being a competent harpsichordist and violinist.

This all developed further when she became immersed in a lively local arts community which encouraged (and actively practised) painting, music and theatre.

DeeDee Nash Ruffo Nash_Paris Night
DeeDee Nash Ruffo Nash_Puffins, colour

DeeDee moved on to carve out a freelance career based on graphic arts in the creative commercial world. She moved from the USA to England in 1996 where her artistic career continued and thrived and she joined the West Wycombe Art Group in 1997.

DeeDee has two favourite media, oil paint and pen and ink – but she also uses charcoal very skillfully to produce lovely, and very convincing portraits.

Her art

When using oils, the main inspirations for her paintings are the mood and atmosphere surrounding dusk and early evening. She loves the dark, sometimes brooding hues of gold and green and the gentle touches of slightly misty blues. Her delicate lightness of touch achieves some remarkable results and her lovely peaceful landscapes offer great serenity and charm. She doesn’t stop there. She is also captivated by the night life of city centres, the bright lights and deep shadows which contribute to the drama of a scene and is then enhanced by shapes and figures which suggest an intriguing background story. Her paintings are a delight.

Her work in her other medium, pen and ink is equally captivating and results in some intriguing pictures. Stark black and white imagery, with subtle nods to Aubrey Beardsley shape and design, are created by the artists in what she describes as “constructive doodling”.

DeeDee Nash Ruffo Nash_Lake Sunset 1
DeeDee Nash Ruffo Nash_Moby Dick

Constructive Doodling

She allows her mind to wander the blank page and almost lets the pen decide the route to take. That route dictates her decisions to move on in an imaginative way to make sense of what could be chaos. This brings the process under control and eventually a delightful design emerges. These designs can exist in their own right or colour can be added to enhance and further the images. “Constructive Doodling” works!

Whatever medium takes the attention we hope that visitors to the exhibition will enjoy the experience of viewing DeeDee’s creations alongside work from 23 other artists.

The exhibition

The West Wycombe Art Group Annual Exhibition takes place in the West Wycombe village hall and runs from Friday, 26th to Monday 29th August. It is open daily from 10am to 5pm on Friday and Monday and from 10am to 6pm on Saturday and Sunday

Making massage a regular, guilt-free treat

Liz Nicholls

Buckinghamshire

We’re all up to our eyeballs in depressing news about the rising cost of living… But we also know how vital self care is for good mental health… So what’s a stressed out, strapped-for-cash girl to do? 🤔

As far as luxurious treats go, a great massage is top of my treats list. You’re either a massage person or you’re not. For me there is no other wholesome indulgence that quite hits the spot when it comes to topping up that mojo. Being a single mum, prone to life-ruining migraines and living with a non-hugging teenager, the prospect of some no-strings touching always appeals. 💆

So the ethos of The Massage Company, born in Camberley in 2016 and growing ever since while winning a few industry awards, really appeals to me. It’s a subscription-based service on a mission transform massage therapy from a “once in a blue moon occurrence” to a regular part of our wellbeing routines. This brings the costs down, and helps you enjoy a regular top-up just for you, so you can enjoy the benefits (better sleep, reduced anxiety anyone?) without feeling guilty or waiting for another birthday to roll round.

I popped into the High Wycombe branch and shared my goals with the friendly team. Although petite and dainty, Gabi the therapist was happy to indulge my “go-hard or go home” approach. Her Swedish style massage was expert, and incredibly relaxing, along with the calming fragrance ooozing out of the mister. You can also opt for deep tissue if you’re the hench type, or hot stones. I treated myself to an additional scalp massage which involved Gabi focusing on my temples and neck, gently pulling small sections of my hair which unleashed all sorts of weird & wonderful sensations elsewhere.

I wafted out into the real world feeling light as a feather and full of beans. And I was plagued by none of my usual headaches for more than a fortnight (and counting). I hope many more of these franchises spring up and urge everyone to put themselves first and treat themselves. We’re all cancelling treats and direct debits but this one should pay for itself.

*The Massage Company branches include Camberley and High Wycombe. To find out more, visit massagecompany.co.uk