Support vaccination with V-star badge

Liz Nicholls

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Lisa Hulyer and Sarah Lewis were so moved by the plight of our NHS heroes and angry about anti-vax scaremongering, that they decided to do something about it…

Over winter they launched their Vaccine Star (V-Star) badge for sale at £3 with all profits going to NHS charities, St John Ambulance and local causes, while sending a positive message to the world.

“We are two British mums who, like everyone else, have been significantly and profoundly affected by this dreadful virus,” explained Lisa and Sarah.
“Like most of you, we’ve been homeschooling our children, whilst struggling to maintain any vestige of normality as best we can.

As we are unable to work as normal, we have created this badge to promote the Covid19 vaccination programme to encourage every person in this country to take up this vital vaccine and to wear your V-Star badge to show your support.

It’s a handy way of being ‘seen’ to support the programme – and the feedback from healthcare workers has been so positive. It’s important everyone, from all communities, comes together to have the vaccine, to enable us to return to normal.”

The high quality 3cm blue enamelled star set in gold metal with a butterfly clasp is a British-made product. The project is helping to promote pop-up staff shops in hospitals for free food and essentials. As well as relaxing staff break areas for NHS workers and welfare packs of snacks, drinks, lip balm and hand creams.

To buy yours, please visit v-star.co.uk and follow
@vstar.uk on Instagram


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Flying high with Legoland

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Families can book in to enjoy the UK’s first flying theatre ride at the LEGOLAND® Windsor Resort at the end of this month

Gates will open to the new multi-million-pound land, created by kids for kids, on Saturday, 29th May.

Standing at over 25 metres tall, the Flight of the Sky Lion ride is at the heart of LEGO® MYTHICA: World of Mythical Creatures, the hotly anticipated new land which marks the park’s single biggest investment since the resort opened 25 years ago.

Aboard the Flying Theatre ride, families will be taken under the Sky Lion’s wing and transported to the parallel universe of LEGO MYTHICA, where mythical creatures come to life. Standing at 13 metres tall, the equivalent of 325 LEGO Minifigures, are two drop towers and prepare to get wet on Hydra’s Challenge steering your own vessel.

Also not to be missed will be the 13 mythical creatures made from more than 1.7 million bricks by a team of 15 master builders over f 8,649 hours – almost a full year of building. Adorning the Flying Theatre building will be the model of the Sky Lion, Maximus, made of 685,530 bricks. Using the resort’s new augmented reality technology, watch the mythical creatures come to life before your eyes using the LEGOLAND App.

Helen Bull, divisional director at the resort, said: “The country has never needed escapism more than right now and we’ve worked closely with children and their families to make sure our new land delivers thrills for everyone.”

The Resort’s existing 4D Cinema will feature a new and exclusive LEGO MYTHICA film. To book tickets, visit www.legoland.co.uk


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Mental Health Mates are offering support

Liz Nicholls

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Abby Lacey set up Mental Health Mates – Reading after needing help herself, the support group helps anyone suffering as well as their family and friends

Founded in 2016 by author and journalist, Bryony Gordon, Mental Health Mates is a network of peer support groups, run by people who experience their own mental health issues, meeting regularly to walk, connect and share without fear or judgement.

In early 2019, being a fan of her writing and podcast, as well as suffering from anxiety for most of my life, I decided to check out Mental Health Mates. The nearest to me were about 20 miles in either direction, so after about five minutes of procrastination, I contacted them and offered to start my own group.

I know from experience that mental illness magnifies through isolation. I also know that being outside in nature is great for your mental health, so to incorporate walking and talking to someone, sharing with them or simply walking beside them – just connecting – is the first step to recovery.

In May 2019 I set up Mental Health Mates – Reading, organising bi-monthly weekend walks for people suffering from mental illnesses, along with their family and friends, in and around Reading.

We were lucky enough to have almost a year of walking together before the pandemic hit, but we’ve carried on walking when we can, and when we can’t, we meet bi-weekly through Zoom. The Zoom calls are a great way to check in, in a really informal environment. There is no structure to our calls – we chat about everything from TV to politics, from fashion to medication – we cover it all! There is never an expectation to talk and if you don’t want the camera on, that’s fine too.

We have built a great community of like-minded people, and we have visitors on the calls from all over the country as I, along with other walk leaders, actively advertise that all are welcome.

When we are able to get together, our accessible walks are as gentle or as brisk as the group would like, so we cater for everyone, covering about two miles over an hour.

We are truly spoilt for choice for locations in the area from beautiful lakes such as Dinton Pastures and Whiteknights Lake at the University of Reading, to the River Thames at Caversham. We’re hoping to expand our offering to west Reading too in the early summer too, so we can reach even more people.

If you would like to join Mental Health Mates – Reading please visit facebook.com/mhm.reading
Or for more information on support, visit mentalhealthmates.co.uk/support/


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Good Cheer Award Winners 2021

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Thank you to everyone who nominated their favourite pubs, bars, restaurants, cafes, community stores, independent grocers and virtual and live events – there’s clearly a lot of love out there for those in the hospitality industry who’ve worked so hard to get through the past year even when they haven’t been able to open.

We asked you to share with us those who deserve recognition and thanks and have truly brought ‘good cheer’ to us as we’ve come together.
And the winners are…

Pub / bar

THAMES VALLEY:
SURREY:
Plough & Harrow, Warfield
Ten Tun Tap House, Alton

Restaurant / café

THAMES VALLEY:
SURREY:
Robyn’s Nest, Warfield
Nest, Ripley

Independent / community store

THAMES VALLEY:
SURREY:
Village Hamper, Sonning
Milland Community Shop

Virtual / live event

THAMES VALLEY:
SURREY:
Sarah Fountain, Watlington
Guildford Fringe Festival

Overall winners

THAMES VALLEY:
SURREY:
The Swan, Clewer
Thatched Tavern, Ascot

Gilbertson & Page

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Here at Gilbertson & Page our team lives and breathes dogs. Not only do we specialise in the manufacture of life stage, working and sensitive diets like hypoallergenic and grain-free recipes, but dogs run our office, well unfortunately, not quite! but there’s always one or two running about or napping by the desk.

Whilst we’re a small independent Hertfordshire-based company, we have a distinguished history. We were founded in 1873 and we’re proud to say that we have held the royal warrant ever since. Our first complete dog food was launched in 1975, the original Gilpa Valu Mix and we haven’t stopped since. Today we have a range of eighteen top sellers, all based on our core values of quality, value and taste.

Our foods are delicious. High-quality British produce is blended and cooked with British meats and fish in nutritious combinations to ensure dogs find our foods irresistible every day whether they prefer chicken, beef or lamb – we have options for them all.

Our foods are nutritious. We formulate to ensure dogs get all the nutrients they need in their food to help keep them fit and healthy. We have foods for puppies, juniors, adults and seniors so you can feed our foods throughout your dog’s life and the nutritional levels are balanced for each stage to support your dog with whatever he does, from performance, working, higher activity to the more sedentary life styles.

Our foods are made with care. Every batch we cook is carefully scrutinised to make sure it matches our high standards and we don’t comprise on quality anywhere – from our packaging, ingredients to the final crispy biscuit in the bag, we care about every aspect.

Why not give our foods a try? We’re here to help if you need help choosing the best food for your dog and we have an efficient online ordering system through our website that delivers our foods straight to your door in just a few days.

50% discount offer! We are pleased to offer a 50% discount code across our entire range. The discount is valid from 23 April to 28 May, with one use per customer and a £100 limit. Simply use the following coupon at our online checkout ROUND50

Buy now here

Evolution Eco Homes

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EvoEco Homes are passionate about creating a cleaner environment and reducing your carbon footprint.

As one of the leading UK based specialist suppliers of heat pumps, heating solutions for swimming pools and solar panels they pride theselves on providing customers with a comprehensive, ethical, trustworthy and professional approach to renewable energy to help customers control the cost of their electricty.

Specialist advisors will always look to offer you the most suitable system at the most competitive price, giving you honest technical and financial advice.

They have years of practical experience supplying and installing energy heat pumps and other renewable technologies and are happy to work alongside architects, builders and private house owners who are looking for energy efficient, eco-friendly solutions.

Whether you are looking to upgrade your home, complete renovation or even building a completely new home, find out more about what they can do for you


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Take five….

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Top tips for creating your home gym. We’ve teamed up with Morgan Beilby of local design and fit-out specialists Velvaere Studios to help you create the perfect home/work balance.

1) Make sure your space will function as a home gym

Avoid the mistake of a “room full of equipment” rather than a home gym. Carefully design your gym so that it allows for an effective work- out.

Many aspects can be overlooked but it’s the attention to detail that enables the user to experience the full benefits of a home gym.

For example; is your gym ‘zoned’ correctly, with separation between the strength and cardio area?
Is your gym flooring located in the right place?

Is there enough space behind your cardio equipment and are sockets in the right place to avoid trailing leads?
Are your mirrors located in the best position?
Is your bench and squat rack directly under any lights that are affecting your vision?

Our design service at Velvaere Studios enables clients to visualise their space, focusing on the details to make it perfect in every way.

Our design team use the latest design tools to assist our clients from initial concept to the equipment layout and final design finishes.

2) Does the space inspire you?

Once the fundamentals of design are established to enable your home gym to function properly, we can then work with you to personalise the space. We believe that a home gym should be designed to promote wellbeing and a sense of inspiration. The choice of wall and floor finishes, the mood created by the lighting and the atmosphere from air quality to fragrance will all contribute to the energy within the room.

3) Does the equipment match your fitness and lifestyle needs?

It is essential that the equipment you choose is the equipment you will use.
If your goal is to build muscle then you would want to focus on investing in strength equipment such as dumbbells and other free weights rather than cardio pieces such as a treadmill. You might like the idea of a treadmill, but you may still want to go for runs outside with your running partner so the equipment focus should be on the equipment you will most use.

We will help you to focus on selecting the equipment for your home gym which best suits your workout and lifestyle needs.

At Velvaere we provide a whole range of health and fitness equipment, to meet the needs of all training requirements. We create a solution for every space, ranging from a single set of dumbbells through to a full home gym set up.

We partner with world leading equipment manufacturers and will produce proposals to fit your budget.

4) Find the right space

Do you have a spare room or suitable space that can be repurposed? Many people convert their garages, spare rooms, basements and lofts etc. and it may be possible to make a room flexible in its use. It is important though to design it first before you go ahead and assume that it is suitable.

It may be possible to extend your home or a very popular option is to consider using a garden building. Again, you can re-purpose an existing building but often a better solution is a new purpose designed garden building. Companies such as our partners, Green Retreats, (https://www.greenretreats.co.uk/upgrades-to-the-bucks-showroom/ ) provide an efficient and effective way to expand your home to include a home gym where the building structure and amenities such as windows, doors and heating are all included in the price. Velvaere Studios then provide the interior fit out of the garden rooms with fitness equipment and specialist finishes that will transform your space into a fully fitted and perfectly functioning garden room gym specialist finishes.

5) Quality is key

Your home gym should be built to last. It’s a place to go to improve and feel better so both the interior fit out and the fitness equipment inside should reflect this. A home gym is an investment in yours and your family’s health, happiness and wellbeing. Your home gym needs to be a place that inspires you and the quality of equipment and finishes will all contribute. A quality home gym is much more than about how it looks, it’s about how it makes you feel.

At Velvaere Studios we work with world leading manufacturers such as Technogym and Life Fitness and our design and fit- out team has many years of experience of working on high quality projects .

The Velvaere one- stop service home gym fit-out service makes it easy and stress free for you.

We completely take it off your hands and create stunning home gyms that are designed and fitted out to not only function properly but to look and feel great so that you can too !

We would love to hear from you and to see how we can help to create your ideal home gym.

Visit www.velvaerefit.com, follow @velvaerestudios on Instagram, email or call 07580 155596

Star Q&A: Ed Stafford

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Liz Nicholls chats to survival expert, dad & TV star Ed Stafford, 45, about life, lockdown & the summer family wilderness camps he has helped devise in the South East.

Q. Hello Ed! As an adventurer, has being in lockdown been especially hard for you? “Actually I was in a good position to face lockdown. I’m used to being dropped into the middle of nowhere and left to fend for myself, and good with a curveball! Don’t get me wrong: I love travelling and I think everyone is chomping at the bit to travel. But it’s been OK. Working on different stuff has been fun. As you can see, I’m in my man cave!”

Q. How beneficial is it to get children outdoors? “Getting outdoors is an easy hack to cut through the crap of lockdown. It helps mental health for adults and children. When Ran my little boy is outside he’s his best self; more engaged, polite, more eye contact. If you take screens away, especially Netflix which is that bingewatch mentality, it’s like getting an addict off truly nasty stuff. Having said that, we’re not monks about screens. We’re all busy. Laura & I have loved a bit of science fiction escapism in the evening!”

Q. Your camps sound fun – how tough are they? “There are different levels. For some camping is outside their comfort zone so listening to the sound of the deer, the owls hooting at night, will be quite novel, quite spooky. But then those with more outdoor experience can go a bit more advanced. Children on the five-day camp can learn to blow a fire into life with their hands… I used to think that stuff was geeky but it’s cool. We might parnass a fish.”

Q. What’s the weirdest thing you’ve eaten? “I’ve eaten an electric eel, a tapir, the tail of a woolly monkey. When we were in the Amazon I was aware I couldn’t come along with my western attitudes and tell them what to kill or what not to kill. The jungle was their larder. On the logging camps, you might come across a baby monkey tied to a post & its mother boiling in the pot.”

Q. Are the Scouting movement & the Army a good place to nurture a love of the outdoors? “I love the Scouts. I learned to navigate, pack a bag, sleep out thanks to the Scouts. Camp Wilderness is different because you can be there with your parents. I remember being miserable at Sandhurst, in the wet and cold, in the woods. If you want to take the joy out of the outdoors, join the military! The flip side is the Army offers the most intense training. I think it costs £80k to put an officer through training and that’s leadership, management outdoor skills. It’s world-leading.”

Q. What’s on your bucket list? “I’m out of the early-20s need to conquer things. I’m filming a series of First Man Out in Kenya and a C4 show 60 Days with the Gypsies. I don’t want to sound boring but with a young family I love to come home after a trip. No ego-driven expeditions any more!”

Q. Who are your dream dinner party guests? “Dinner parties are my worst nightmare, so can I choose a camp meal round a fire? As well as the people I love, I admire sportspeople. So, Martin Johnson, Dean Richards & Rory Underwood.”

Camp Wilderness for children & families take place over summer in four locations. Please call 03332 004 469 or visit campwilderness.co.uk

May recipes: Watercress wonders

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Suze Morrison, founder of Gourmet Glow, has teamed up with The Watercress Company to offer some healthy meals

Burrata, strawberry & passionfruit sambal, pineapple & watercress salad

Ingredients:

• Two balls of burrata
• One pineapple
• 200g strawberries, chopped into 0.5cm dice
• 3cm ginger, minced
• Four cloves of garlic, minced
• 4 red chillies, finely chopped
• 80g caster sugar
• Pulp of two passionfruit
• One lime, juiced
• 1 tsp white miso
• 1 tbsp fresh coriander, finely chopped
• 200g watercress

Fruity cashew confetti:

• 50g cashews, roasted for 15 minutes at 160C
• 10g freeze-dried strawberries
• 20g dried pineapple (from pineapple above)

PREP: 30 minutes & four hours drying

SERVES: 4

May heralds the start of the UK watercress season when the lush, peppery, vitamin-filled green leaf is available in abundance on supermarket shelves, freshly harvested from farms in Hampshire and Dorset, where watercress has flourished for over 150 years.

Watercress is a uniquely grown crop with its roots clinging to the gravel base of the beds, while the plants sway in the nutrient-rich spring water that flows past. The water is pure and clean, forced up from deep underground aquifers and filtered through the chalk of the South Downs.

Method:
1. Begin with the pineapple crisps. Set the oven to the lowest it can go and slice half the pineapple as finely as you can (if you have a mandolin, use this)

2. Lay the slices on baking paper and dry for four hours, or until crisp throughout. Set aside to cool.

3. Take 20g of this pineapple and blitz to a ‘confetti’ with the freeze dried strawberries and cashews. Set aside in an airtight container.

4. Chop the remaining pineapple into chunks
and grill in a griddle pan until lightly charred, soft and sweet.

5. For the sambal, combine the strawberries, ginger, garlic, chilies, sugar, passionfruit, miso and coriander in a bowl. Taste, it should be tangy, sweet, spicy and lightly salted. Adjust with more lime, sugar or salt if needed.

6. When ready, divide each burrata in two. Divide the watercress and sambal between four bowls and top with the burrata and grilled pineapple.

7. Sprinkle with the confetti and serve.

Masala fried red mullet with potato & watercress salad

Ingredients:

• Four red mullet fillets (or mackerel, salmon, sardines etc)
• One onion, finely sliced
• 800g baby potatoes, skin on
• 4 tbsp oil
• Pinch of salt
• 2 tsp nigella seeds
• 200g watercress
• 20g basmati rice
• Lemon to serve

Masala spice blend:

• 1 tsp turmeric
• 2tsp chilli powder
• 1 tsp cracked black pepper
• 1 tsp salt

Raita:

• 300g full-fat Greek yoghurt
• ½ cucumber, seeds removed, julienned
• One clove of garlic, minced
• ½ tsp cumin seeds
• ½ tsp nigella seeds
• 1 tsp oil
• Pinch salt

PREP: 60 minutes

COOKING: 35 minutes

SERVES: 4

Method:

Begin with the roasted rice. Add the rice to a dry frying pan, heat to the highest heat & toast, shaking the pan until it turns golden brown and smells nutty. Remove, allow to cool then grind to a coarse crumb in a blender. Set aside in a jar (this keeps for ages and adds great crunch to salads)

2. For the raita, mix the yogurt, cucumber, garlic and salt in a bowl. Heat the oil in a pan and add the cumin and nigella. Fry until beginning to pop then pour the whole lot into the yogurt bowl. Stir in and allow to rest.

3. Add the potatoes to a pan, cover with cold water and cook until just tender. Remove, drain and allow to steam until dry. If you have time transfer to the fridge on a wire rack to dry more.

4. Rub the spice mix over your fish fillets. Set aside.

5. Heat oil in a large frying pan and fry the onion until crisp & golden. Drain on kitchen paper, sprinkle with salt and set aside.

6. Add the potatoes to the hot oniony oil and lightly crush with a fork You want to retain some shape but give crumbly edges to go super crispy. Fry for 2-3 minutes, sprinkle with the salt & nigella and flip. Cook until all the edges are crisp (you may need to fry in batches). Set aside.

7. Heat a splash more oil in the pan and add the fish fillets skin side down. Have the heat on medium high to prevent the edges from curling up. If they do, the heat is too high, and the skin may scorch. Cook for 2 minutes, flip and cook 1 minute more. Remove from the heat and rest.

8. Lay the watercress on a platter and tumble over the potatoes. Spoon over the raita, top with the fish and finally the crispy onions and 2 tbsp roasted rice. Serve with lemon wedges for squeezing.

See our other recipes

Shakespeare & St George’s Day

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“Cry God for Harry, England and St George..!” Pit your wits against our Which William quiz in honour of Shakespeare & St George’s Day

We’re wishing you a happy St George’s Day & happy birthday to William Shakespeare with a Bard quiz from Guildford Shakespeare Company (GSC) who still have tickets for their live-streamed performance of Henry V this weekend.

Book in for HENRY V: live online, written by William Shakespeare & adapted & directed by Caroline Devlin from today until Sunday at various times. The cast brings together a collection of the company’s best-known actors including Paula James, Chris Porter, Emily Tucker, GCS founder Matt Pinches and Gavin Fowler. Matt tells us: “We are thrilled to have such a fabulous cast for this special retelling of Henry V, and Caroline’s inspiring 2014 production. This production, with the play’s own homage to theatre, will be a testament to the ingenuity and resilience of our industry, as well as a celebration of all that we love about the theatrical experience. The play also carries a unique message of hope that the impossible is possible, a sentiment that has never felt more poignant than in our recent times.”

Tickets are £20 – book at www.guildford-shakespeare-company.co.uk/Henry-5-online

As they celebrate their 15th birthday, the Guildford Shakespeare Company also kick off their return to the stage with the irresistible comedy She Stoops To Conquer, in the gardens of Guildford Castle, 17th June to 3rd July.

We have teamed up with GSC founder Matt to offer you the following Which William? quiz to test your knowledge against!

Which William?

Willy Wonka, Will.I.Am or William Shakespeare..? You might find it harder than you expected to establish which famous William said the following lines…

1 Every man dies, but not every man truly lives

2 There is nothing either good or bad, but thinking makes it so

3 The web of our life is of a mingled yarn, good and ill together

4 When our memories outweigh our dreams, we’ve grown old

5 Better three hours too soon than a minute late.

6 Only the good die young

7 Can you practice what you preach
Or would you turn the other cheek

8 Love sought, is good; but given unsought, is better

9 We know what we are, but know not what we may be

10 There’s no such thing as the unknown, only things temporarily hidden