Time for wildlife

Liz Nicholls

Community & Charity

Help ensure the survival of beautiful African wild animals by supporting two amazing charities

The last 12 months have been challenging in so many different ways. But to mark World Wildlife Day we’d like to highlight ways you can help the urgent plight of animals in need of your support.

The AfriCat Foundation & Namibian Lion Trust team are working hard to protect the natural habitat has been built up over the last three decades.

But with travel restrictions hampering vital fundraising from safari bookings at Okonjima Lodge, both charities really have gone back into survival mode.The nature reserve is a self-sustaining eco system, unique in Namibia, which has provided so much valuable behavioural and scientific insight. This knowledge, about big cats, grazers, pangolins, hyaenas, rhinos and more, has contributed to considerable understanding of these threatened species.

It might be March but, as the world is only just opening up, why not take up the special offer to buy a beautiful 2021 calendar? These feature 13 amazing images from great photographers including Chris Packham, Rohan Van Wyk, Joe Hubmann, Robin Maeter, Naun Amable, Paul Martens & Wayne Hanssen, of lions, hyenas, pangolins, leopards, cheetahs and zebra.

Check out the AfriCat shop here. Every pound you spend on these gorgeous goodies will help ambitious wildlife projects, in particular building a school in one of the conservancies which borders the western boundary of Etosha National Park. Or take advantage of the Donate Now, Stay Later offer from Okonjima; email [email protected]

Please visit africat.co.uk for further info & sign up to the newsletter. Thank you!


For a very different charity – read about England World Cup legend Sir Geoff Hurst’s gin and whisky to support dementia charities here.

Sir Geoff Hurst’s gin & whisky

Round & About

Community & Charity

England World Cup legend Sir Geoff Hurst’s gin and whisky to support dementia charities.

Sir Geoff Hurst has launched his own drinks collection called the Spirit of 66 – with a proportion of the sales proceeds supporting Alzheimer and dementia charities.

Sir Geoff’s hat-trick in the 4-2 victory over West Germany in the 1966 World Cup Final is considered one of the greatest days in the nation’s sporting history. He has helped mark this with a personalised brace of spirits – a London dry gin and a single malt whisky.

These two new products are real collectors’ items for sports fans and drink enthusiasts as just 1,966 bottles of each spirit have been produced, while each iconic label picturing Sir Geoff in England kit that day has been personally signed by him.

“I have named the drinks the ‘Spirit of 66’ to reflect the fantastic team spirit we had in that England team that won the World Cup almost 55 years ago,” said Sir Geoff. “These two spirits are also very high quality just like we had in that team. You can tell a lot of love and effort has gone into producing these spirits, which are both very collectable and drinkable.”

Sir Geoff is just one of four England players who played in theWembley final who are still alive. This year, Sir Geoff has lost two of his former teammates – Jack Charlton and Nobby Stiles – while fellow team-mate Sir Bobby Charlton has been diagnosed with dementia, an illness affecting many former players.

Consequently, he is supporting the Sport United Against Dementia campaign organised by the Alzheimer’s Society. Aproportion of the proceeds from the sales of the ‘Spirit of 66’ collection will be donated to support the high-profile campaign.

Sir Geoff, who won 49 caps for England and played for West Ham United, Stoke City and West Bromwich Albion, added: “In view of the sad problems many of my teammates that are no longer with us have encountered in the past we have decided to help the Alzheimer’s Society with a donation from the profits made in this venture. We have been supporting Alzheimer’s for quite a while and we feel it’s a great cause in keeping with the Spirit of 66.”

The ‘Spirit of 66’ London Dry Gin (40% ABV) is priced at £59.99 and the ‘Spirit of 66’ single malt whisky (46% ABV) is priced at £99.99. Each limited-edition bottle comes in a presentation box. These are made by the In the Welsh Wind, a distillery based five miles north of Cardigan on the West Wales coast. Since 2018, the distillery has been developing and distilling award-winning custom branded spirits for other businesses. They count ex-England cricket captain Michael Vaughan’s Declaration Gin, multi-award-winning Tenby Gin and the Welsh Sisters brands Morwyn and The Captain’s Wife among their drinks cabinet. They have collaborated with Sir Geoff Hurst to produce the Spirit of 1966 limited edition collection of spirits.

Both ‘Spirit of 66’ spirits can be purchased at spiritof1966.co.uk/, where it is also possible to sign up to the Spirit of 66 newsletter. The Spirit of 66 can also be followed on Facebook and Instagram via @spiritof1966.

Let’s talk mental health

Liz Nicholls

Community & Charity

Happy Friday, everyone… but, perhaps you’re feeling less than sunny today. We have teamed up with Surrey mental health charity Oakleaf Enterprise to offer you a friendly hello.

The Oakleaf team offer work-related training, wellbeing activities, counselling, and emotional support both in-person and virtually. They are  providing dozens of virtual activities and support groups over lockdown including art therapy, cooking & nutrition, fitness classes, choir, yoga, anxiety management workshops and many more.

We are also joining forces with them to help eradicate the stigma associated with mental illness because a lack of awareness, and limited access to professional help, can mean mental health is still seen by some as a taboo subject.

What can we do? According to NHS England, one in four people will experience a mental health problem, which means someone you know may be struggling. Having a mental illness does not mean that you are “crazy”. It means you are vulnerable. It means you have an illness with challenging symptoms. While mental illness might alter your thinking, destabilise your moods or skew your perception of reality, this simply means that you are human and are susceptible to sickness and illness, the same as any other person.

Many of us are unaware that we can be daily reinforcers of stigma. Whether it was that time you told someone to “cheer up,” “snap out of it,” or “be more positive” when you didn’t know that they were struggling with depression? Let’s be kind and change our behaviour in small ways. If someone you know is struggling, perhaps:

• Offer support to people who are struggling with their mental health, whether that’s from yourself, a healthcare professional or in-person and online support groups

• Be an active listener and let them tell their story

• Show empathy, even if you don’t fully understand their experience

• Talk openly about stigma and challenge misconceptions when you hear them

At times like this, open conversations about mental health are now more important than ever. Mental illness is not something shameful that needs to be hidden. Click here for some inspiring testimonials to show that we can all recover if suffering from a dip in mental health, and how helpful support can be.

Also check out Oakleaf’s gardening and upholstery departments that create skill-based training for clients and generate additional income oakleaf-enterprise.org/social-enterprises

Read about Inside Out – an education charity based in Reading focused on improving children’s wellbeing.

Elmbrook Court

Karen Neville

Community & Charity

Luxury care home Elmbrook Court to open in Wantage creating up to 100 jobs

Up to 100 new jobs will be created in Wantage with the opening of a new care home.

Elmbrook Court on Grove Road will provide all-inclusive residential, nursing, memory and respite care for up to 65 residents when it opens in late April 2021.

Jobs will be created across a number of roles including care, nursing, administration, catering, housekeeping and maintenance.

The purpose-built care home is the newest addition to Oakland Care’s portfolio which includes three homes on the Essex/London border and two on the East Sussex coast.

Home manager, Emily Montgomery, is a registered nurse and has more than 30 years’ experience in healthcare. She says they will be looking to recruit people who will provide the very highest quality care to residents.

“We will be opening as a Covid-free home and, as part of that, we will be ensuring that our staff receive the Coronavirus vaccine to keep our residents and team members safe,” she said  “We will be seeking people with passion and energy. Care is a fantastic career and offers an immense sense of satisfaction, whatever the role within the home.”

Elmbrook Court will feature private en-suite facilities, cinema room, hair and beauty salon, air-conditioned lounges and garden areas. When restrictions allow, Emily aims to open the home’s bistro to the public as a memory café to support those in the community living with dementia.

The home will open with robust infection control protocols in place and will feature a specially-designed visiting suite where friends and family can visit loved ones in a COVID secure environment.

“We hope Elmbrook Court will be a boon to the community, not just in terms of the jobs it will offer, but in the facilities we will share with local people,” added Emily. “Oakland Care is shortlisted for three prestigious national awards, including one for our response to the Covid crisis, so people should have the confidence to both live with us and work for us.”

Elmbrook Court will begin viewings for prospective residents and families from February onwards. Initially, at least 30 new roles will be created, reaching up to 100 when the home is fully occupied. Elmbrook Court will also support apprenticeships and work placements.

See our map of care homes from the February 2021 Adult Care Supplement.

Maymessy: Recipe for life

Karen Neville

Community & Charity

Social enterprise Maymessy is helping families learn valuable life skills.

Food shopping and cooking for a family can be a challenge, especially when you’re on a tight budget, but help is at hand from a Wantage-based social enterprise.

Maymessy at Garlands Farm, West Challow, believes in giving marginalised groups and disadvantage young people better wellbeing through cookery classes and wellness activities.

It was launched in 2017 by Anna Richards who turned a disused cow shed into the cookery barn supporting young carers, young people in the care system, families struggling financially, those with special needs and refugee families.

Maymessy works with eight local charities and youth groups helping young people to understand the importance of teamwork, build their confidence and self esteem and enjoy time outside in the shared garden as well as giving them greater knowledge of healthy eating and wellbeing.

Maymessy at Garlands Farm

This year, it has branched out to support adults from charities such as Refugee Resource and Style Acre with those who visit working in the vegetable plot and getting to grips with the pots and pans before sitting down to tuck into a plate of their own yummy and nutritious food.

Maymessy can also offer ad hoc work experience, volunteering and mentorship to the young people who go there.

Anna said: “As a qualified teacher with nutritional accreditation and a mother of twin girls, I know how food shopping and cooking for a family can be a challenge, especially when you’re on a tight budget or using a food bank.

“As a local community interest company, I wanted Maymessy to help these families by providing a safe and comfortable space to learn these essential life skills.”

And this year Maymessy has been supporting the NHS in Oxfordshire with weekly deliveries to around 100 Covid-19 special care staff.

Anna added: “At the end of lockdown, we also collaborated with Ray Collins Charitable Trust to provide care packages to the staff of the John Radcliffe Children’s hospital. It was there that we had the idea that we could partner to provide support to local families in Wantage – providing our cooking expertise to the families using the [Wantage Coronavirus] Support Group.”

The WCSG has been working closely with local families over the last seven months supplying much-needed shopping and over this time realised the difference these classes could make.

Anna Richards: Founder of Maymessy

Ray said: “Shopping and cooking on a tight budget is never easy and in some cases can lead to friction and tension in the home. So the Sustainable Wantage, Ray Collins Charitable Trust and the Coronavirus Support Group want to help out by organising cooking classes for parents and hopefully older children to learn new cookery skills together and how to plan and budget for meals.”

To find out more about the work of Maymessy visit www.maymessy.com

Read about the R&A Good Cheer Awards and nominate who has helped in your community.

Billy Ocean & the Young Voices

Liz Nicholls

Community & Charity

Billy wishes you a Lovely Day with charity single to help children’s mental health

Pop icon & beacon of positivity Billy Ocean, who lives in Berkshire, has teamed up with the Young Voices Choir to release a new and uplifting recording of the Bill Withers’ classic, Lovely Day.

Also featured on the track are award-winning broadcaster and musician YolanDa Brown (saxophone) and The Voice UK 2018 winner (and former Young Voices singer) Ruti Olajugbagbe. Released on January 26th by Magic Star (the home of children’s and family entertainment at Sony Music UK), all UK profits will go to children’s mental health charity Place2Be.

“We have all been affected in different ways over this difficult last year,” says Billy MBE, “and many children have really struggled. I’m so happy to be able to join with Young Voices to help make a difference and to raise funds for children’s mental health with this wonderful and hopeful song.”

Profits from the single Lovely Day will go to the Place2Be charity which launched the first ever Children’s Mental Health Week in 2015. Place2Be’s school-based teams estimate that 85% of the young people they support have been negatively affected by the pandemic, and have seen an increase in referrals around self-harm and suicidal thoughts in secondary schools. 1 in 6 children and young people have a probable mental health condition (Source: NHS Digital)

Ben Lewis, CEO of Young Voices, says: “With school life currently disrupted, this highlights the need, more than ever, to support children’s mental health.”

Young Voices is an all-inclusive educational programme designed to use music to develop 21st-century skills such as communication, collaboration, creativity, mindfulness, and innovation. Celebrating its 25th anniversary this year Young Voices have staged the largest children’s choir concerts in the world. In 2020 alone, Young Voices headlined 24 arenas across the UK, including a record breaking concert at Manchester Arena, overtaking Take That’s previous record of 46 shows.

This summer Young Voices will attempt to break their own Guinness World Record for ‘Largest Simultaneous Sing-Along’, currently standing at 293,978 – a record set when the ‘Big Sing 2005’ was broadcast live from the Royal Albert Hall. Streamed live from The O2 arena, Bily Ocean, Yolanda Brown and Ruti and Young Voices will join children, their teachers and families throughout the UK to sing ‘Lovely Day’. Involvement can be registered at: youngvoices.co.uk/biggest-sing/

Show your support and buy the single and share with us if Place2Be have helped you or someone you know

Bramley Golf Club fund-raise for hospital

Round & About

Community & Charity

Bramley Golf Club members tee up a great fundraising effort for hospitals

Members of Bramley Golf Club have raised over £10,000 in less than a week to supply frontline clinical staff at the Royal Surrey County Hospital, Guildford and Milford Haslemere Hospital with individual well-being packs.

The members wanted to support the health and well-being of the hardworking and dedicated staff at this critical time. The packs are intended as a morale boost and a small token of appreciation and each contain a handwritten message of hope and appreciation.

Once the members’ collection reached £2,000 the club added its own donation to double the amount and from there the members just kept on giving to get to the £10,440 raised so far.

The first 250 packs have been delivered to the Royal Surrey with a further 750 on their way over the next four weeks.

Established in 1913 and located just outside of Guildford, Bramley Golf Club has members from around Guildford, Godalming, Cranleigh, and the villages of the Surrey Hills, an area of outstanding beauty.

The club is home to 900 members, 641 golfing members. The club boasts an excellent junior section with 44 junior members and an adult academy with 24 players learning the game. BGC Ladies section makes up 23% of the golfing members which is above the national average of 15%.


Read our Golf feature from this time last year to find out about local clubs and courses.

Big Wild Weekend

Round & About

Community & Charity

Celebrate the summer solstice and Big Wild Weekend by getting closer to nature with the Wildlife Trusts from today (19th) to Sunday (21st).

As part of Surrey Wildlife Trust’s 30 Days Wild campaign, you can enjoy an evening of music hosted by Radio 1 DJ Cel Spellman and special guests, have your very own summer sleep-out under the stars and join the Big Wild Quiz.

The weekend will be kicked off with actor & Radio 1 DJ Cel Spellman, and special guests including KT Tunstall, Sophie Ellis-Bextor. More special guests stars to be announced on The Wildlife Trust’s Youtube channel.

On Saturday 20th people can take part by setting up a tent or hammock in the back garden or building a den in the living room. Try your hand at making moth traps, do some night-time wildlife watching and sleep under the stars on this special night, celebrating Surrey’s natural world and the longest day of the year. There will be prizes from Cotswold Outdoor, Learning Resources UK and Jordans Cereals for the best dens and camps.

The Big Wild Quiz on Sunday 21st will be hosted live by The Wildlife Trusts ambassador Sophie Pavelle and actor and podcast ‘Trees a Crowd’ host David Oakes on its Facebook page, with special appearances from the likes of Liz Bonnin. So get ready for four rounds of fun questions on nature, movies/books/TV, music and nature photos.

Jo Foat, communications officer at Surrey Wildlife Trust, said it offers something different for the weekend: “Every year for 30 Days Wild, we hold a Big Wild Weekend with hands on events and open days. We’ve adapted it this year so that everyone can still join in from home in whatever way they can. With music, events and activities to enjoy online, families can get involved and even enjoy a wild sleep out in a tent outside or an indoor den. So get back to nature, sleep under the stars, listen to the wildlife around you and wake up to a magnificent dawn chorus.”

Take part

To join in with the Big Wild Weekend see website and on social media.

Online auction

Round & About

Community & Charity

The Hampshire Country & Garden Festival is running an online auction from Thursday 11th to Sunday, 14th June offering virtual entertainment while raising money for the Hampshire Medical Fund.

The unique event is in place of the annual festival at Bere Mill, which had to be postponed to 2021.

The auction aims to celebrate and promote all that is great about Hampshire, while also raising funds for equipment in a new revolutionary Gynaecology Clinic in Winchester NHS Hospital.

To take part in the auction visit https://givergy.uk/hampshirecountryandgardenfestival where you will find some fabulous prizes including a classic York Commemorative solid teak garden bench by Chic Teak with the option of having a carved inscription on the back.

Other auction items include a case of Chalk Down cider, a delivery of wildflower turf to cover a 40 square metre area, an evening fishing on the River Test with a picnic supper and a delivery of fully prepared lamb supplied from the Bere Mill Estate.

A full list of prizes and info on how to place a bid are available on the festival website www.hampshiregardenfestival.co.uk.

Chic Teak will also donate 10% of all sales of luxury furniture made during the auction weekend (13th and 14th June) to the Festival fundraising cause; click here to shop https://chic-teak.co.uk/

While the Festival itself cannot go ahead as planned this year, the festival committee have been able to continue their work to support patients and staff by creating two unique gardens for the following deserving Hampshire causes.

Louisa Corbett, who designed several RHS Chelsea Flower Show gardens, is creating a garden for Melbury Lodge the inpatient Mother and Baby Unit, treating women in perinatal mental health crisis in Winchester, where a relaxing outdoor area is desperately needed.

Jez Stamp and Lou Jameson of garden design company JamesonStamp, are creating a garden for Firvale childrens’ respite centre in Basingstoke, which helps children with complex health issues or behavioural problems.

Jez and Lou said: “We are fully aware first-hand of the solace and stimulation that gardening brings. Having been inspired by the work undertaken by the team at Firvale, we feel honoured to help enrich its outdoor space.

“We aim to lift the spirits of those that set eyes on the initial façade at Firvale and in turn inform a space that engages a multitude of senses. Bright colours and bold textures will be paramount and we welcome the opportunity to use them.”

This garden is available for sponsorship (interested companies should contact Sarah-Jane Shirreff at

Annabel Humphrey, committee member for the Hampshire Country and Garden Festival, said: “The last few months have been very difficult for everyone and we were very disappointed to have to cancel this year’s festival. The online auction is a great way for us to bring all the wonderful people involved in the Festival together to provide some virtual entertainment while continuing our pledge to raise money for the Hampshire Medical Fund.”

She added: “We’re also very pleased to be able to fulfil our aim to create the two gardens for Melbury Lodge and Firvale clinics and work on the gardens will start this year. We look forward to welcoming everyone back to the Festival in 2021.”

Take part

To take part in the auction visit

Could you help Citizens Advice?

Round & About

Community & Charity

The dedication of staff and volunteers at local charity Citizens Advice Oxfordshire South and Vale has allowed it to continue giving advice to those in need at this time.

The team rallied to ensure as many people as possible could be helped over the phone or through webchat. Two weeks into the lockdown, 70 volunteer advisers were operating the Advice Line service from their homes.

As part of Volunteers’ Week, which runs from June 1st to 7th, Citizens Advice Oxfordshire South and Vale wants to thank its 150 volunteers for their contribution not only during this exceptional time but throughout the year. Between them they contribute more than 1,000 hours to helping people each week.

In the last year it has helped over 11,000 people with problems such as debt, housing, benefit and employment issues.

Volunteer Virginia Parker, a specialist benefits adviser in the Abingdon office, said: “I get enormous pleasure in helping people in difficult circumstances to understand and get what they are entitled to.

“It can be very daunting to ask for help, so we do our best to put people at ease and help them through the process. There is nothing more rewarding than helping people to resolve their problems so they can move ahead with their lives.”

Jon Bright, chief officer at South and Vale, said: “Throughout the year our wonderful volunteers contribute their time and energy to make a huge difference to people’s lives and help keep our vital service running. We couldn’t do it without them.”

Want to volunteer?

If you are interested in finding out more about volunteering with Citizens Advice Oxfordshire South and Vale, please visit their website