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
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.
Petworth Community Craft Group has taken its fundraising efforts for local charities online to continue its good work when they haven’t been able to meet in person.
The group which has just marked its third anniversary brings crafters of all abilities together to make saleable delights to help boost local charities including more than £1,000 for Petworth Community Garden and in excess of £2,500 for the Sylvia Beaufoy Youth Club.
When sources of selling ceased last year because of the pandemic, Tricia Stephens from PCCG said they “entered the 21st century, creating a Facebook page and sold from there as well as Petworth virtual Christmas market”.
Where possible the group uses unwanted, surplus or natural products to make a wide variety of gifts and useful items. Materials used have included donated designer fabric samples, donated blank cards and envelopes, unwanted magazines and newspapers, scraps of wool, corks, fir cones and much more.
PCCG encourages teamwork and a sense of camaraderie and belonging and enables experienced crafters to share their know how.
Members are welcome to bring their own project, make crafts to raise money or just go along for coffee and a chat and see what others are doing.
The group usually meets every second Friday in the month at Coultershaw Warehouse and is looking forward to getting together as soon as they can.
As lockdown measures ease and the weather improves, Surrey Hills Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty remains a popular destination for both locals and visitors.
The past year has drawn more people than ever towards our green spaces in an effort to find fresh air for exercise and to reconnect with nature.
The Government’s roadmap out of lockdown sees measures eased this week, with the relaxation of the ‘Stay at Home’ rule, meaning outdoor gatherings of either six people or two households will be allowed, making it easier for friends and families to meet outside. From Monday, 12th April, non-essential retail will be able to open including most outdoor attractions and settings and hospitality venues will be allowed to serve people outdoors.
These dates also coincide with the Easter break, school holidays and improved weather, all factors that will see a greater volume of visitors head to the Hills for recreation and relaxation.
Heather Kerswell, Chair of the Surrey Hills AONB Board says: “As lockdown measures slowly ease over the coming months, we expect the Surrey Hills to attract a greater volume of visitors. It is important that those who do come follow the Countryside Code and our guidance to ensure a safe and enjoyable visit. We encourage those who do come to seek out the less well-known areas of the Surrey Hills and keep away from the busy beauty spots where it will be harder to socially distance. Please remember to respect, protect and enjoy the outdoors and where possible support the local business community who very much need our custom at this time”.
We encourage residents to be tolerant and visitors to be kind as we see an increased enthusiasm for the Surrey Hills over the coming months. In-line with the newly launched Countryside Code we’ve set out our top tips for visiting this Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty to ensure the countryside is a safe place for all:
• We are aware that many visitors who love to walk and cycle will have greatly missed the Surrey Hills landscape, the views, and the well-known beauty spots. We advise you to avoid well-known sites such as Box Hill, Leith Hill and the Devil’s Punch Bowl which may become congested and therefore difficult to socially distance. Instead, why not visit lesser-known areas of the Surrey Hills.
• Please check before you travel that hospitality, car parks and facilities are open. Some local amenities such as loos may not have reopened yet.
• Take your litter home, leaving no trace of your visit. This keeps the Surrey Hills a special place for everyone. Please don’t light fires or BBQs unless there is a sign to say they are permitted. It is easy for a fire to get out of control and destroy rare habitats.
• Respect local wildlife and look after nature by being extra cautious and sticking to footpaths and bridleways so as not to disturb ground-nesting birds and other wildlife.
• Please be aware that our local farms are under great seasonal pressures during this time and we would encourage you to respect their needs by keeping dogs on leads and follow all designated footpaths and bridleways to keep yourselves and farm animals safe.
• Remember to consider the local community and other people enjoying the outdoors. Observe social distancing measures to help restrict the spread of the virus and ensure the countryside is a safe place for all
• We encourage you to continue supporting local during this time of transition and want to highlight all the wonderful products and services available on our doorstep in the Surrey Hills. Take a look at our list of businesses offering home deliveries, online support and services, gifts and inspiration.
• We hope that renewed enthusiasm for the Surrey Hills will translate into more people getting involved in caring for nature, wildlife, and the landscape. Remember to Respect, Protect and Enjoy – breathe deep, stride out, and give a cheery heartfelt hello to those you meet along the way!
Chris Howard, Chairman of Visit Surrey says: “Visit Surrey is delighted to welcome back our residents and visitors to the many attractions our county has to offer. It will, however, be a challenging time for the county’s most popular beauty spots and researching to find some of the Surrey Hills hidden gems may make for a more enjoyable and safer experience. Remember many places, even if they are free, will want you to book in advance. Also, toilets and other facilities will still be limited, so do plan your outings carefully.”
Stephanie Fudge, National Trust General Manager for the Surrey Hills comments: “We would encourage all visitors to plan outings carefully and to check facilities are fully open. As wildlife emerges from the winter, we are seeing large numbers of ground-nesting birds across the Surrey Hills from March until early Summer. Their breeding success is critically dependent on not being disturbed and so we would ask that visitors are considerate, keep to paths and keep their dogs on leads in sensitive areas. By being respectful of wildlife and the local community we can all benefit from an enjoyable visit to the Surrey Hills.”
The Surrey Hills Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty (AONB) is one of 46 nationally protected landscapes in the UK, having equal landscape status and protection to a national park. The Surrey Hills AONB was designated on 8 May 1958, which makes it the first AONB in southern England to be designated (the first was the Gower Peninsula near Swansea in 1956). The Surrey Hills AONB stretches across a quarter of the county of Surrey and includes the chalk slopes of the North Downs from Farnham in the west to Oxted in the east, and extends south to the deeply wooded Greensand Hills which rise in Haslemere. The Surrey Hills Board is a Joint Management Committee which is funded by Defra, the National Trust, Surrey County Council and the local authorities within the Surrey Hills area.
For further information on the Surrey Hills Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty (AONB) visit www.surreyhills.org
Here we are, a full year after lockdown was announced. Let’s face it, tempers feel a little bit frayed this week, which is natural, really, as we approach the final furlong towards (hopeful) freedom!
So we were wondering… what have you missed most over the last 12 months? Maybe it’s something you took for granted BC (before Covid). That coffee & cake break with workmates… Your routine hair appointment… Saturday sport.
As you know we’re raising a glass to our hospitality heroes with our R&A Good Cheer awards because eating & drinking while supporting our local pubs, restaurants, delicatessens is right up there at the top of our list. Watch this space for news of the winners soon!
Entertainment is another industry we salute, as we remain hopeful of the roadmap to freedom allowing us to enjoy theatre again. As Louise Chantal, co-director of The Oxford Playhouse puts it: “We miss our friends. I think of the scores of youngsters in our 17-25 Young Company, who were in their last week of a year’s preparation for their showcase production when we closed [in March 2020], and our long-standing amateur partners – Oxford Theatre Guild, Oxford Operatics and Opera Oxford – whose yearly extravaganzas at the Playhouse bring together hundreds of local people, from every possible background, to put on a show.
The Oxford Playhouse team, intermittently furloughed and each covering several people’s jobs, transferred all the participation and artist development programmes online (leading the march to digital nationally) and have worked with over 4,500 young people and community group members to ‘stay creative’ during lockdown. “We kept telling stories and supporting artists all through this crazy year,” says Louise.
Check out the Oxford Playhouse co-production of The Picture of Dorian Gray, starring Stephen Fry and Joanna Lumley, and upcoming highlights.
With a summer of festivals shelved last spring, the idea of enjoying the pick of the area’s crop of get-togethers this summer feels like a dream… Boomtown near Winchester is tentatively set to go ahead in August, with tickets selling out this month.
“In the last couple of weeks, we’ve moved on from what felt like the world’s longest winter to all of the joys of spring and the collective excitement to reclaim the summer for hugging friends and family and dancing until our shoes fall off…” said the team.
“It’s still a long and rather complicated road to get there, but if we’re allowed to go ahead, words will never be able to fully describe the sheer love and energy that will radiate through this year’s fair.
The team behind Reading (and its northern sister festival Leeds) are also delighted to have sold out all tickets to eager festival-lovers, with Stormzy, Postmalone, Disclosure and Liam Gallagher ready to rock after a quiet year!
So…. what have you missed? Tell us on Twitter and we will be here to celebrate all of these returning joys with you!!!
Jess Gillam tells us about music’s power to connect us and looks ahead to the Investec International Music Festival which will take place in Surrey Hills as soon as safely possible.
Music is intrinsic to our humanity. It has been a form of expression since the beginning of time and it has the power to unite, to console us and to bring light in what often seems like a broken world. Music can provide us with a space in which to exist, a place in which to be renewed and perhaps a moment of solace – which is what many people have needed throughout these bleak and uncertain times. Music can offer us the thing we are all longing for most: connection.
When my diary was wiped clean of concerts, workshops and performances pretty much overnight in the first lockdown, I wanted to try to find a way to unite people and provide a bit of that sense of belonging, identity and hope that music often gives us. So, I set up the Jess Gillam Virtual Scratch Orchestra – an online project publishing parts for different pieces (Let It Be by The Beatles, Where Are We Now by David Bowie and Sleigh Ride by Leroy Anderson) on my website.
Anyone, of any ability, could send in a video of themselves playing along (with a click, of course, to keep us all in time!). We then created an orchestra out of all the videos and then I played along too. It was a big online party for musicians and we had just under 3,000 people aged between two and 95 participating over the three projects.
The response was absolutely fantastic from both participants and the audience, with many people commenting on how the project had given them a sense of community. Although technology can sometimes be endlessly frustrating, it really can (especially in these times) offer us a way to come together on a mass mission!
Thanks also to technology, I also released my second album, TIME, last year. We finished the recording four weeks before the first lockdown. The concept behind the album – to reflect the arc of energy in a passing day and to give listeners a moment away from a manic world seemed to become strangely more pertinent in the weeks to follow. Unfortunately, because of the pandemic, the album could not be toured but I will perform some of the music from this album at the Investec International Music Festival which I’m excited about!
As we start to move towards a world in which live performances become possible again, I hope we’ll all cherish the direct sense of communication music can provide and that we have missed in recent times. I’ve been lucky enough to give a few concerts to live, socially distanced audiences and in an odd way, these have been some of the most memorable performance experiences of my life so far; the heightened sense of anticipation, communication and sharing in the halls has been so special. Nothing can replace the electrifying energy of live music, which is why I cannot wait to perform in Surrey!
For more details & updates on the 2021 Investec International Music Festival, please visit iimf.co.uk
Inside Out is an education charity based in Reading focussed on improving children’s wellbeing.
Children’s mental health and wellbeing have never been so high on the school agenda. Teachers have never been under so much pressure, managing daily change.
To help teachers and parents with the current, flexible approach to schooling, they have developed a ‘Wellbeing Guide’ based on their 5 Keys to Happiness, the equivalent of 5 fruit and veg a day for your mental health.
This is a free resource for schools, teachers and families packed with inspiration and activities to boost children’s happiness and wellbeing. These resources will now help ease the long-awaited transition back to school.
There is a wealth of information and resources out there but it’s often confusing and hard to know where to start. The Wellbeing Guides are full of activities that are simple, fun and quick-to-use, at home or school.
The Guide offers fun, simple ideas and resources for children, whether they are currently being educated at home or in school with a new edition shared each week during lockdown. Please see attached pdf of the latest edition, which includes a 5 Keys to Happiness poster for parents to print out and use at home.
Half term fun for families & children with Surrey Wildlife Trust
Half term is here: Hurray! We know it’s been tough times for parents this winter & that (whisper it) you might not exactly be jumping for joy at the prospect of filling extra time with your children.
But Surrey Wildlife Trust have some great resources to help you spot & encourage wildlife in your own garden or outdoor space, as well as activities you can enjoy online or in one of the 70 Surrey wildlife reserves the charity manages.
England’s most wooded county, Surrey is impressively diverse and possibly the richest of all land-locked counties in terms of numbers of recorded species.
This includes a stunning mixture of landscapes to explore in Surrey, from the beautiful chalk meadows and rolling hills of the North Downs, to the vast heathlands of the Thames Basin and sprawling wetlands in the east of the county.
Visit surreywildlifetrust.org & keep your eye on our social media feed to find out about courses & how you can identify nationally scarce mammals, birds, insects and reptiles that share this gorgeous county with us.
Another half term idea is building a family time capsule with the kids, read our tips here
Kirsty Prankerd, from photo keepsake retailer Write From The Heart, explains how to build a time capsule with the kids.
If you’re currently looking for an educational family activity that will keep the kids busy during lockdown (and who isn’t at the moment?) then why not try building a time capsule?
Not only is this great fun, but it can help encourage the kids to learn more about the past, and to imagine their futures. Here, I’ll share my tips for creating a capsule as a family.
Make it educational
Before you set out to build your time capsule, you’ll need to decide how long you want to wait until you re-open it. Then, ask a few questions and get your children to use their imaginations.
For example, how old will they be when it’s re-opened? What might they be doing? What will the world be like in the future?
Find a sturdy box
Of course, before you can assemble your time capsule, you’ll need to find a strong box that will keep everything safe for a long time — preferably one that’s water- and air-tight. If you’ll be burying your capsule, it may help to double up and use multiple boxes to help provide an added layer of protection. Placing photos, letters, and newspaper cuttings in plastic wallets will also help to keep them safe.
Decide what to include
You can include any objects that you think might be interesting to revisit years into the future.
All of the following items are perfect for a time capsule:
• Money. A few coins and notes will show future generations how money has changed over time.
• A list of prices for everyday items, e.g. a pint of milk. This is a great opportunity to teach slightly older children about how the value of currency changes
• Newspaper cuttings.
• A few handwritten diary entries describing what an average day in lockdown is like — perfect for getting the kids to practice their writing skills!
• A family photograph.
• A note or letter to your future selves.
Find a spot to stash or bury it
Finally, you’ll need to find a place to buy or stash your time capsule. Remember, you don’t necessarily need to bury it in the ground if you don’t have access to a suitable location. Instead, you can always stow it in an out-of-the way place like an attic or storage space.
Once you’ve buried or stashed your time capsule, remember to make a note of its location so you don’t lose track of where it is!
Let us know how you get on and send any photos of your time-capsule in the making to [email protected]
With the cancellation of live music events there are still plenty of ways to get your musical fix, from organisations far and wide who are using online platforms to share their work.
Local music charity Grayshott Concerts has been putting on shows at St Luke’s, Grayshott, for fifteen years. Starring world-class performers from the world of classical music including Sir Karl Jenkins, Howard Shelley, Nicola Benedetti and more, they already had a packed programme lined up for 2020.
Founder Peter Harrison has some suggestions for his favourites:
Grayshott Concerts’ patron Karl Jenkins has joined forces with the 10,000-strong Stay at Home Choir to undertake an ambitious ten-week project bringing together voices from lockdown to perform highlights of The Armed Man: A Mass for Peace, to mark its 20th anniversary.
The orchestra-in-residence, the London Mozart Players has created a whole series of videos under the banner At Home with LMP featuring Mozart Mondays, Chamber Tuesdays, Thursday Thoughts, Family Fridays and Saturday Sessions. They’ve even created some personalised messages just for Grayshott fans.
Choir-in-residence Excelsis Choir have taken their rehearsals online and are now Zooming regularly. A number of virtual choirs have also sprung up – music therapy charity Nordoff Robins welcomes singers of all backgrounds and abilities for a weekly sing-a-long on Tuesdays at 4pm. www.nordoff-robbins.org.uk/online-choir/
The London Symphony Orchestra has a digital programme including twice-weekly full-length concerts, playlists and activities to keep younger music fans busy. They also have a YouTube channel packed with more than 500 videos. www.lso.co.uk
The BBC has created ‘Culture in Quarantine’ to bring arts and culture into your home, both from the archives and fresh content from newly-formed groups like the BBC Lockdown Orchestra https://www.bbc.co.uk/arts
Several past performers are doing sterling work on their own social media channels, including the singing schoolboy Cai Thomas, from Farnham. Making the most of Facebook and Twitter, Grayshott Concerts has also established its own new fortnightly e-news which currently goes out to over 1,600 subscribers.
Hailed as “an excellent way to keep connected” and “really enjoyable and insightful” by readers, the mailers combine current news from the classical music world along with retrospectives of past concerts in anticipation of the time when we will once again be able to bring world-class music to Grayshott and the surrounding area.