Spooky Bucks – October Halloween special

Liz Nicholls


Bucks is home to many spooky sites including the Hellfire Caves… Liz Nicholls gathers up some local ghost stories

Some 300 feet beneath the Church of St Lawrence, capped with its gold ball, lie the Hellfire Caves. This intricate network of caverns a quarter of a mile into the hillside was created by Sir Francis Dashwood who, in 1747, introduced a poor relief bill to pay workers a shilling a day to mine the chalk here and build a road into Wycombe.  

Once the haunt of members of The Hellfire Club, whose former HQ in Medmenham Abbey invited river-bourne visitors to Fait Ce Que Voudras (“do what thou wilt”), as Bill Spectre (ghosttrail.org) explains… “As guests could arrive without being seen by the pappazzi, the great and good would play there with their mistresses. They say ladies of the night were hired to walk around dressed as nuns [“dollymops”]. When he took it over in 1750, Sir Francis had the grounds turned into a ‘garden of lust’ with explicit statues, fruity plants and suggestive topiary. He was finally pushed into moving to the Hellfire Caves after a monkey he’d released ran riot during a church service.” 

Tall tales of satanic rituals and debauchery here abound, and Hellfire Caves is a thriving tourist attraction today, as well as Hughenden Manor, whose former resident Prime Minister & Earl of Beaconsfield Benjamin Disraeli is said to make his presence felt. The caves, with their imposing flint entrance, have featured on screens big and small, including TV shows Inspector Morse, Most Haunted and Chucklevision.  

As David Kidd-Hewitt explores in his book, Buckinghamshire Stories of the Supernatural (with good spirits and a generous pinch of salt), Hellfire Club steward Paul Whitehead left his heart to be entombed in the Mausoleum but it was stolen by an American soldier. Paul’s ghost is said to stalk the caverns and hills above. 

Others have related visits from “Sukie”, a young woman, dressed in white, said to have been summoned to meet her suitor in the caves before realising she was the victim of hoax by local lads. She’s said to linger here amid the dripping caves and at her place of work, the nearby George & Dragon. As David notices: “Pubs and taverns always seem to predominate when it comes to supernatural stories and Buckinghamshire is no exception. In fact, so many public houses across the country claim to be haunted, it would be unusual to find a pub without a ghost or two…” The book explores paranormal stories at the Ivy House, The Greyhound in Chalfont and The Boot & Slipper in Amersham, as well as Wycombe Swan and the abandoned Canadian Red Cross Memorial Hospital in Taplow. 

The Royal Standard in Forty Green, which claims to be England’s oldest pub is said to be haunted by a 12-year-old drummer boy who was among a dozen Royalists beheaded by Parliamentarians during the English Civil War. Charles II’s mistress is also said to visit in spirit. 

You can book in for a spooky sleepover with Haunted Rooms (hauntedrooms.co.uk) at venues including Missenden Abbey, which was founded in 1133 and favoured by King Henry III. The November dinner & stay is already booked up by eager ghoul-hunters seeking the immoral “Black Monks of Missenden” and the lady in crinoline carrying flowers floating down the stairs and through a door. 

Henry VIII brought Anne Boleyn and Catherine Howard (the two wives he had beheaded) to Chenies Manor, another Haunted Rooms ghost hunt venue. I used to do silver service here during my shortlived teenage career as a waitress and always felt a shudder as I passed the staircase. But when I stayed last December for a last-minute birthday treat, no spirits slipped by (except for a few vodkas). But plenty of other spirits are reported at Chenies where, during the English Civil War, parliamentary troops used the long gallery as a barracks. 

As many as five ghosts are claimed to frequent the Crown Inn in Amersham, the setting for Hugh Grant and Andie MacDowell’s romantic scene in Four Weddings and a Funeral, as well as my own parents’ wedding. Staff at the 16th century coaching inn have complained of shouts to “get out now!”. Some punters have reported a spectral drinker at the end of the bar at last orders. 

Make of all these spooky stories what you will, but as David adds by way of caveat: “The devil is in the detail runs the saying, but more often than not you would find it difficult to locate very much ghostly detail, let alone a devil.” 

Claim a 20% discount at countrysidebooks.co.uk with code R&A20 

Teen science talent recognised with awards

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Tomorrow’s STEM talent has been honoured at the Oxfordshire High Sheriff Young Engineer Awards

Well done to everyone who took park in the recent High Sheriff Young Engineer Awards Abingdon & Witney College to recognise students who show great promise in the fields of engineering, resistant materials and design technology.

State schools across the county were invited to nominate students aged 12-18 across three age categories in the awards sponsored by Abingdon & Witney College, The Engineering Trust and Lucy Group Ltd, a long-standing Oxford company that engineers smart electrics for the built environment.

The judging panel comprised Richard Dick (executive chairman, Lucy Group), Sally Scott (High Sheriff of Oxfordshire), Andy Linfoot (engineering director, Lucy Electric) and Mark Vingoe (CEO, The Engineering Trust). Prizes included £400 for the winning student in each category and £1,000 for the students’ respective school or college. There were also runner-up prizes in each category, a Team Award and an overall High Sheriff Award.

Richard Dick, judge and founder of the Oxfordshire High Sheriff Young Engineer Awards, said: “The calibre of entries this year was excellent, so I applaud everyone who was nominated. The next generation of students who choose STEM careers will be instrumental in finding the scientific and engineering solutions to some of the world’s biggest challenges. Seeing how these promising young engineers think – and turn concepts into reality – gives me every reason to believe that we will be in good hands.”

The winners

Year 12 & 13 award

Winner: Kye Gustafsson – Abingdon & Witney College
Kye is an avid CAD user who designed and made a working centrifugal pump. The judges were particularly impressed that he constructed the impeller, drive shaft, bracket and housing. He CNC milled the impeller blades, turned the drive shaft on a lathe and milled the keyway into it. He then fabricated a bracket from sheet metal and 3D printed the housing.

2nd place: Michael Vereker – King Alfred’s Academy
As an integral member of the tech team for school productions, Michael designed and produced load-bearing structures for many of the stage sets using CAD/CAM processes. He also worked alongside a professional lighting technician to programme the productions lights. Michael has a passion for DT and has completed work experience at the Veolla Nuclear Solutions HQ (Abingdon), where he also participated in a Solidworks CAD class.

Joint 3rd place: Emily Saunders – UTC Oxfordshire
Emily is studying for a BTEC Extended Diploma in Engineering, A level product Design and A Level Maths. She was a volunteer at a nursing home, where the staff had a specific requirement for supporting one eldering gentleman with disabilities. Emily developed an aid that enabled the disabled resident to carry out everyday activities, such as writing and doing puzzles, from his wheelchair, while meeting other criteria of the brief: easy to use, deploy and store.

Joint 3rd place: Olivia Estevez – Wood Green School
Olivia likes to explore materials and product design and has developed two notable concepts. The first is a mug, inspired by Chindogu product design principles, that pushes the boundaries of function and form. The second is a landscape design for the redevelopment of wasteland at school, using natural materials to create architectural sculptures that connect different areas into one harmonious outdoor breakout space.

Year 10 & 11 Award

Winner: Tom Wigley – St Birinus
Tom designed and made a metal desk lamp. The judges noted his attention to detail in respect of both ergonomics and aesthetics. His design included the electric circuitry and wire harness, while he demonstrated considerable metalworking skills in fabricating and assembling the components. He also considered the practicality of putting his prototype into production. Tom is a founding member of the school’s Enginerring Club and has helped support Y7 students with slot car designs and construction.

2nd place: Lilly Broome – Burford School
Lilly has demonstrated extensive engineering design and production skills, using a variety of processes such as heat treatments, finishing, centre lathe work – including knurling and thread cutting – and the use of CAM and CNC machinery, enabling her to create products to an outstanding level of tolerance. Examples shown included an attractive red & black pivot desk lamp with an hourglass shaped hood.

Joint 3rd place: Jed Thorburn – Futures Institute
Jed’s projects have ranged from desigining and building a water turbine as part of a project linked to Intermediate Technology, designing a glider for an RAF competition, redesigining a school from scratch (a theoretical disaster recover competition from the international education organisation BIEA) and designing an app to encourage children to spend more time outdoors.

Joint 3rd place: Leon Conway – Burford School
Leon has demonstrated excellent design and production skills, utilising a wide variety of manufacturing processes – including cutting, wasting, routing, finishing, electronics and the use of CAM and CNC machinery – across various classes of material. He has created final products to a high level of tolerance, including a wooden guitar made from high quality sustainable materials.

Year 8 & 9 Award

Winner: Lucy Busson – Fitzharrys
Lucy’s research-driven approach to Design & Technology strongly appealed to the judges. In addition to freehand drawing skills, she uses CAD with great accuracy. She communicates her design ideas well and uses research to good effect when analysing a brief. She is methodical and practical, working with tools and machines with a high degree of precision. Lucy is also interested in materials and sustainability, exemplified by a bird feeder design project that supported her nomination.

2nd place: Olivia Taylor – Chipping Norton School
Olivia designed and made a decorative lamp using a range of materials, including wood, plastic and metal. This involved forming the plastic shade out of acrylic, using a commercial oven and a jig, cutting and shaping hardwoods using hand tools (including a tenon saw and chisel), and using electrical woodworking equipment such as a band facer and pillar drill. She also cut metal to size to form pivot points for the mechanism. Olivia finally decorated her product with a range of beads sourced from the Textiles department. 

Team Award

Winner: UTC Oxfordshire – Hannah Weston, Charlotte Turner, Maddie Pryce, Floyd Rayner, Thomas Bristow, Cambell Payne.

This team of year 12 students is taking part in the Engineering Development Trust (EDT) Industrial Cadets Gold Award, working with Abingdon-based aerospace company Reaction Engines, who have set them a challenge of recovering heat and converting that to energy. The UTC team consists of 50:50 males/female students and a mix between Engineering and Science students. 

The students attend fortnightly meetings with Reaction Engines, project managing themselves, and work as a close-knit team to engineer a waste heat to power solution. They attended a residential at Bath University as part of the programme, where they worked on the project alongside their mentors from Reaction Engines. The judges were influenced by the ambition and aptitude of the students, who are using industrial CAD packages (Fusion 360) and complex maths to model their concept before manufacturing the high-precision prototype using nanotubes and machining 0.8mm holes using CNC milling processes. 

High Sheriff Award

Winner: Kye Gustafsson – Abingdon & Witney College
The judges deemed Kye worthy of the overall High Sheriff Award due to the sheer professionalism of his end-to-end centrifugal pump design and build project (described above), including full supporting documentation. 

Study and train with Oxford United

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Abingdon & Witney College launch new course offering the chance to gain a sport qualification as you develop your football skills

Abingdon & Witney College have launched the Oxford United Advanced Football Programme; a new course that allows students to study full-time for a sports qualification with Abingdon & Witney College whilst training with Oxford United.

The full-time programme is open to male students aged 16-18 on 31st August 2023, with a female cohort set to launch next academic year. The course provides students with the opportunity to develop their football skills whilst studying a BTEC Sports qualification.

Students will study at our Abingdon Campus, and train directly with Oxford United UEFA B qualified coaches; who alongside our academic tutors, will develop and equip them physically and mentally. Together, we will teach students the determination and resilience they need to succeed, all whilst building the strength and confidence they need to be at the top of their game.

Successful students who join the programme will have the opportunity to play regularly at the Oxford United Bangkok Glass Training Centre, part of the £4.9m sports complex near Horspath. They’ll also get the chance to train and compete in a competitive league and cup tournaments against other teams across the region. Every student will also get their own Oxford United x Abingdon & Witney College training kit and excitingly, a free Oxford United season ticket.

Through our new partnership, talented and aspiring players won’t have to pick between football and academic development; they can do both. When students are not training at the club, our specialist team will be there helping them to prepare for their future. The new study programme includes a sports-based vocational qualification, GCSE English and/or maths as required, a supportive tutorial programme, and the work experience and enrichment activities we offer all our students.

Once they’ve joined the programme, students will also have access to our full college experience. They’ll have the chance to immerse themselves in our student life, take part in our college wide trips and make the most of our pastoral care and guidance.

To find out more about the programme, how to apply and how to secure your place at our Football Trial Event on Wednesday 26th April from 4pm, please visit www.abingdon-witney.ac.uk

Sports Marketing In The Digital Age

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The digital age has brought about a significant change in the way sports marketing operates. Sports brands, events, and athletes have had to adapt to the new digital landscape to reach their audiences effectively. The challenges and opportunities of sports marketing in the digital age are many and varied, and the following article will explore them in detail.

Cheltenham Racing Festival

One example of the challenges and opportunities of sports marketing in the digital age is the Cheltenham Racing Festival. This annual event, held at Cheltenham Racecourse in Gloucestershire, England, is one of the most significant events in the horse racing calendar. The festival takes place over four days, with the Cheltenham racing dates set for March 14-17. The festival attracts a wide audience, including horse racing enthusiasts, punters and causal observers.

One of the biggest challenges facing sports marketers at the Cheltenham Racing Festival is the sheer scale of the event. With tens of thousands of people in attendance and millions more watching online and on TV, it can be difficult to stand out from the crowd and make an impact. However, with careful planning and a strategic approach, there are many opportunities to engage with fans and create memorable experiences.

Social Media

One way that sports marketers can take advantage of the digital age is by leveraging social media to connect with fans before, during, and after the event. Platforms like Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram provide a powerful way to build buzz, share news and updates, and engage with fans in real time. By creating compelling content and leveraging influencer partnerships, sports marketers can generate excitement and drive engagement in the run-up to the event.

During the event itself, sports marketers can use a variety of tactics to create memorable experiences for fans. For example, offering free merchandise, exclusive access, or VIP experiences can help to build loyalty and create positive associations with brands. Live streaming and social media activations can also be effective in engaging fans who are unable to attend in person.

Tradition and Innovation

Another challenge facing sports marketers at the Cheltenham Racing Festival is the need to balance tradition and innovation. While horse racing has a rich history and culture, sports marketers must also embrace new technologies and trends to stay relevant and engaging. For example, using augmented reality or virtual reality experiences can help to bring the excitement of the races to live in new and innovative ways.

Finally, sports marketers must also be mindful of the importance of data and analytics in the digital age. By tracking engagement metrics, analysing audience behaviour, and monitoring sentiment, sports marketers can gain valuable insights into what is working and what is not. This can help to inform future campaigns and improve the overall effectiveness of sports marketing efforts.

Bottom Line

Sports marketing in digital age presents both challenges and opportunities for marketers looking to promote their brands and products at events like the Cheltenham Racing Festival. By leveraging social media, creating memorable experiences, embracing innovation, and using data and analytics, sports marketers can engage with fans in new and exciting ways and drive long-term brand loyalty. As the digital landscape continues to evolve, the key to success will be staying flexible, adaptable, and always willing to try new things.

Education Guide: Winter 2023

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As the new year starts for many it will mean a change in education or time to think about something new, read on for ideas

Click to view the interactive Schools map

Check out more education related articles

Make a splash at school

An initiative launched by The Outdoor Guide Foundation is helping provide Waterproofs and Wellies to state primary schools to allow pupils to enjoy their childhood

As a child, there’s nothing like the simple pleasure of splashing in a puddle. But to do this without being told off and getting too wet, you need the right clothing.

Sadly many children in state primary schools do not have these basic “tools” – Wellington boots, a hooded waterproof jacket and over trousers – to enable them to get out and enjoy this most innocent of pastimes.

However, thanks to The Outdoor Guide Foundation many are now being given this opportunity through the Waterproofs and Wellies Project, the first of what it is hoped will be several similar schemes from the foundation to help disadvantaged children make the most of the natural world around them.

The Outdoor Guide Foundation is the charitable arm of The Outdoor Guide, a free walking tool founded by TV presenter Julia Bradbury and her sister Gina, which aims to make the outdoors more accessible
for all.

Waterproofs and Wellies splashed onto the scene in March 2021 with CBeebies presenter Gemma Hunt launching the initiative alongside Gina. Gemma said: “I am thrilled to be supporting this wonderful initiative and encouraging more children to get outside. The kits provide the basic gear that will allow children to have wonderful outdoor experiences when at school, whatever the weather!”

The goal is to donate 10 sets of wellies and waterproofs to every state primary school in the UK – a whopping 20,000 – to make the outdoors more accessible for all, allowing youngsters to experience, understand and protect nature. The pandemic and subsequent lockdowns proved the benefits of being able to get outside: educational, social interaction and empathy, enhancing wellbeing, reduction in anger, stress and anxiety, improved physical fitness and community engagement.

The Children’s Society says spending time outdoors and in nature enhances a young person’s short and long-term wellbeing. It is also known to improve mental development and personal fulfilment, all of which is endorsed by Mind, advocates of the health benefits of outdoor activities in all age ranges including a reduction in anger, stress, anxiety and an increase in physical fitness as well as a sense of balance and personal awareness.

Waterproofs and Wellies is the result of working with reputable suppliers to source the best value kit with the sale cost for the whole kit just £30. The not-for-profit project donates 10 various-sized kits to a school for them to decide how to distribute at their discretion. Schools and parents can buy extra kits at the same cost.

Julia says: “I am thrilled to be supporting this and encouraging more children to get outside in all weathers! These packs have been sourced as the basic gear that will allow children to have wonderful outdoor experiences, whatever the weather.”

If you can help, please donate at tinyurl.com/mpf62jjv

£30 – will buy and deliver one complete kit to a school

£300 – will buy and deliver 10 complete kits to a school

£1,200 – will buy and deliver 40 complete kits to four schools

£10,000 – will provide kits for schools you choose in a specific area

Teachers, to find out more and nominate your school visit theoutdoorguidefoundation.org/

Get involved

Waterproofs and Wellies are calling on businesses to help support the project too – every business which donates £300 to the initiative will receive a certificate thanking them for their gift for putting something back into the community and will be able to choose which schools they support.

Thanks to the generous donations so far, The Outdoor Guide Foundation has been able to help more than 200 schools since the launch. Businesses interested in getting involved in Waterproof and Wellies should email Gina at [email protected] or call 0203 393 5084.

View the interactive schools map

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