What does Christmas mean to you?

Round & About


Churches in Abingdon have a variety of services in Advent and Christmastide for you to attend

Well, the Christmas season is officially upon us. You may (or may not) have noticed the decorations already up in the shops by now. Personally, when I think of Christmas, I tend to remember my younger years and those exciting times of waiting until Christmas morning to open presents under the tree. Looking back, when I was a seven-year-old boy the Advent season and countdown to Christmas seemed to take forever.

But, what does Christmas mean to me now? For me, Christmas means far more than just physical gifts under a tree, but that the king of heaven and earth had left heaven to be with his people. The good news of Christmas is that Jesus came to save you and me.

The Word became flesh and made his dwelling among us. We have seen his glory, the glory of the one and only Son, who came from the Father, full of grace and truth.   John 1:14 NIV

Let us remember this holiday season that the baby born in a manger is so much more than any ordinary baby. That baby born in a manger is God himself who came to be with his people. The king had come and through his coming, his life, his death and his resurrection, we too can find hope and peace not just during Christmas, but in and out of every season.

 Merry Christmas to you and yours.

 Pastor Michael Ivey

Abingdon Community Church

Churches in Abingdon: Services in Advent and Christmastide 2023

Abingdon Baptist Church (OX14 5AG)

17 December 2023, 6 pm – Carol service followed by mince pies and mulled wine

24 December 2023
     10.30 am – Interactive nativity service for All-Ages

     11.30 pm – Midnight Communion

25 December 2023, 10 am – Christmas morning celebration

Abingdon Community Church (Thameside Primary School, OX14 5NL)

24 December 2023, 10.30 am – Christingle service

Abingdon Vineyard Church (Preston Road Community Centre, OX14 5NR)

17 December 2023, 10.30 am – Christmas café with family Christmas craft activities

24 December 2023, 10.30 am – Family Christmas celebration with Carols and nativity

25 December 2023, 10.30 am – Christmas Day celebration

All Saints (OX14 2AQ)
3 December 2023, 10.30 am – Advent Communion
10 December 2023,3.30 pm – Family Carols
16 December 2023, 10.30 am – Christmas tree festival                        
17 December 2023, 3 pm – Carol service
24 December 2023, 10.30 am – Morning worship
25 December 2023, 10 am – Christmas Day service

Christ Church

17 December 2023 (Northcourt Road, OX14 1PL)

     4 pm – Carol service

     7 pm – Carol service

24 December 2023

     3 pm – Christingle service (Northcourt Road)

     4 pm – Christingle service (Long Furlong, OX14 1XP)

     4.30 pm – Christingle service (Northcourt Road)

     11 pm – Midnight Communion (Northcourt Road)

25 December 2023

     8 am – BCP Christmas Communion (Northcourt Road)

     10 am – Christmas Day services at Long Furlong and Northcourt Road

Parish of Our Lady and St Edmund (OX14 3PL)

24 December 2023

     8.45 am – Mass

    10.15 am – Mass
    6.30 pm – First Mass of Christmas

  8.30 pm – Christmas vigil with Carols
     9 pm – Mass

25 December 2023   
     8 am – Mass
     9.30 am – Mass
     11.30 am – Mass

     2 pm – Polish Mass
26 December 2023 – Feast of St Stephen

     10 am – Mass

     2 pm – Polish Mass

Peachcroft Christian Centre (OX14 2RT)

17 December 2023

     10 am – Nativity service

     7 pm – Carol service

24 December 2023

     10 am – Christmas worship

     3 pm – Christingle service

     5 pm – Christingle service

25 December 2023, 10 am – Christmas celebration

Salvation Army (OX14 5BL)
10 December 2023, 10.30 am– Toy service
17 December 2023, 10.30 am – Christingle service
20 December 2023, 11 am – Community Carol service
24 December 2023, 4 pm – Candle-lit Carol service
25 December 2023, 10.30 am – Christmas morning service

St Helen’s Church (OX14 5BS)
3 December 5.30 pm – Music and readings for Advent                                            
22 December 6.30 pm – Lessons and Carols for Christmas                                   
24 December 4.30 pm – Christingle 11 pm – First Eucharist of Christmas
25 December 2023
     8 am – Holy Communion (1662)
     10.30 am – Family service with address

St Michael’s Church (OX14 1DB)
17 December 2023, 9.30 am – Sung Mass
24 December 2023
     9.30 am – Sung Mass
     3 pm – Crib service
     6.30 pm – Carols and readings
25 December 2023, 10 am – Sung Mass

St Nicolas’ Church (OX14 3NZ)
10 December 2023

     11.15 am – Holy Communion
     5.30 pm – Patronal Evensong

17 December 2023

     11.15 am – Third Sunday service

     5.30 pm – Carol service       

24 December 2023

     11.15 am – Holy Communion

     4 pm – Crib service

 25 December 2023, 10 am – Holy Communion

Trinity Church (OX14 1DB)
3 December 2023, 10.30 am – Gift service and Baptism
10 December 2023, 10.30 am – Civic service
17 December 2023
     10.30 am – Advent Communion
     4 pm – Carol service
24 December 2023, 4 pm – Christingle service
25 December 2023, 10 am – Christmas Day service

Details of all the churches can be found on the Church in Abingdon website:

The Big Give Christmas Challenge

Karen Neville


 One donation, twice the impact to help CPRE Oxfordshire campaign to protect our rural county

Do your bit for the CPRE Oxfordshire campaign to protect our rural county.  We are passionate about making the countryside, its villages and market towns, better places for everyone to live, work and enjoy.

Join us in making a real and lasting impact.  Your donation will be matched, doubling your contribution.  Help us launch the Oxfordshire Green Defenders Network and protect our natural heritage.

Every donation counts.

During this week (November 28th to December 5th) only, every donation, no matter what size, will be doubled – up to our target of £4,500 which will generate £9,000 in total.

What you need to do?

•           Add a calendar reminder for your diary for 28th November, including this link.

•           Have your debit or credit card details ready when you make your donation.

•           Tell others! Please pass on this message to anyone you think might be interested in supporting us and having their donation doubled.

The CPRE believes in countryside and green spaces that are accessible to all, rich in nature and playing a crucial role in responding to the climate emergency.

With a local CPRE group in every county in England, we’re advocating nationwide for the kind of countryside we all want: one with sustainable, healthy communities and available to more people than ever, including those who haven’t benefited before.

We stand for a countryside that enriches all of our lives, regenerating our wellbeing, and that we in turn regenerate, protect and celebrate.

Some people might remember us as ‘The Campaign to Protect Rural England’ – our previous name, and one of several in our long history. We’ve worked for almost a century to support and promote the countryside, and we’ll be doing this for generations to come. That’s why we call ourselves ‘the countryside charity’.

Christmas crackers in Oxfordshire

Karen Neville


December 25th is hurtling towards us faster than a child can unwrap their presents but there’s plenty to wrap yourself up in before the ‘big day’ with events to enjoy, markets to plunder, food and drink to tuck into and not forgetting Santa to visit…

Are you hanging up your stocking on the wall? Ok, perhaps a bit too soon but in the words of Noddy Holder ‘It’s Christmas’ and there’s so much to do before it’s stocking time.

Christmas demands sparkle and magic so how about starting the festive season with a light trail? A multitude of twinkling lights and seasonal sounds fill the air with festive fun at Blenheim Palace. Discover glittering tunnels of light, dancing lakeside reflections and trees drenched in jewel-like colour on one of the country’s most popular illuminated trails. Heart-shaped arches will glitter in the moonlight, tunnels of stars and an 8m sphere will be filled with over 20,000 moving LED lights. There’s even a chance to glimpse Father Christmas along the way. The Palace itself will transform into a winter wonderland as a contemporary edition of Sleeping Beauty’s story comes to life. The Great Court outside plays host to a traditional Christmas Market.

There’s all the nostalgia of a warm, bustling, 60s country Christmas at Chastleton this year. In the inimitable style of the lively last owners of Chastleton, the Clutton-Brocks, there are cocktails on the sideboard, dinner on the table, board games and classic Christmas television. You can even get stuck in with a game of Twister. For younger visitors, there’s a festive activity trail. For a rare chance to see Chastleton after dark, book an evening Christmas tour with a warming drink and mince pie.

Open at Christmas for the first time, Nuffield Place will be beautifully decked with trees, garlands, fairy lights and lots of car-inspired decorations. Home to William Morris, Lord Nuffield, founder of Morris Motors, the house guides share stories of the house and family as you wander around the decorated house, Driving Home for Christmas.

Greys Court has always been a place of warmth and welcome and this Christmas it is brimming with cherished Christmas memories. The house and estate are adorned with decorated trees, twinkling fairy lights and the magic of the season. Embodying the spirit of Christmas past, nostalgia runs through the gift-wrapped presents, traditional toys in the nursery and Lady Brunner’s gingerbread baking is available to taste in the kitchen. There’s a Christmas trail for children around the garden and candelight tours for grown-ups to explore Greys Court after dark with a glass
of mulled wine and a mince pie.

Help Rudolph find his friends who are lost around the grounds at Waterperry Gardens until December 23rd. Find them all to claim a prize.

Visit Santa in his grotto at Webbs Garden Centre at Millets Farm, one of the most popular locally, booking essential, where he will be in residence through to Christmas Eve. Get your snow boots ready and join Snowball Sammy and friends at the North Pole, mix up some strength-boosting reindeer food to help get the reindeer back to their magical best. The big man is waiting patiently in his living room to meet his little helpers and as a thank you, he will present each family with a bespoke jigsaw keepsake of him and his elves. There’ll also be time for a festive photo before you go through to choose a toy from the large selection in the toy workshop… Move on to Mrs Claus’s kitchen where she’s thrilled to have little helpers to make her kitchen even merrier. Roll up your sleeves because it’s time to trim the tree and decorate some Christmas treats!

Let the lights guide you on an enchanting stroll through Cotswold Farm Park after hours on the set trail which takes you from the visitor centre through to the park’s boundaries and back. Meet, feed, and see the cute animals in the decorated barns at night. Stroll along the picturesque trail, winding through the farm like never before. With each step, you’ll be immersed in the festive spirit, surrounded by stunning light displays and the soft rustling of leaves. Enjoy a heartwarming, one-on-one encounter with Father Christmas and a day filled with festive joy. Join Mrs Claus in her workshop decorating gingerbread men and the elves in their teddy bear workshop creating your own cuddly friend.

Get ready to embark on a wild and wonderful Christmas adventure as Beale Wildlife Park gears up for the holiday season. It’s an opportunity to create lasting memories and support wildlife conservation efforts. Visit Santa’s Magical Grotto, meet the reindeer, follow the festival park trail hunting for hidden penguins or snowmen scattered throughout the park. A prize awaits at the finish line! Join in free festive crafts in the education centre and why not round off your day with mince pies
and non-alcoholic mulled wine?

One of Santa’s Castle elves will greet you at Oxford Castle & Prison before being taken into the base of St Georges Tower, home to over 1,000 years of history. Another elf will then take you to the 900-year-old Norman crypt to make wildlife friendly reindeer food to take away with you. Walk through the old Victorian Prison wing where you can make your very own Christmas tree bauble and the adults can try some mead. Spend some time with Santa and receive a pre-Christmas present. At the end of the trail you will have some time to write a wish and hang it on the wish tree.

Santa needs help to find his missing reindeer at Didcot Railway Centre, they’ve escaped and he needs them to deliver the presents. Explore the unique collection of Great Western Railway steam locomotives, carriages, wagons, buildings and artefacts at the 21 acre museum while you locate all the reindeer stations. You’ll pick up a special passport and a stocking as you enter and as a reward, at each reindeer station, you’ll receive a small gift before finishing with a visit to Santa in the giant toy workshop and you’ll get to choose your own gift. Your entry ticket also includes unlimited train rides on the main demonstration line.

Have you been naughty or nice? Santa will know when you take a train trip with him at the Cholsey & Wallingford Railway this Christmas. Be entertained by his elves, be visited by Father Christmas and every child will be gifted a present. Before departure adults will receive a free festive drink and mince pie, and children will enjoy a soft drink and a sweet treat from the Christmas Market.

Pantos are a unique part of an English Christmas and it just wouldn’t be the same without hissing, booing and cheering so get ready to shout “he’s behind you” at Jack as he climbs the beanstalk at Oxford Playhouse, join The Sinodun Players for The Adventures of Sinbad at Wallingford Corn Exchange and head to The Beacon Wantage as Robin Hood robs from the rich to give to the poor. Abingdon Drama Club are doing battle with Captain Hook in Peter Pan, Kingston Bagpuize Drama Group are searching for the owner of the slipper in Cinderella while the much-loved classic tale gets a Latin American twist at Chipping Norton Theatre. Head to the Corn Exchange Witney to meet Snow White and her seven new friends on their adventure.

Oxford City Christmas Market sets up in Broad Street with a mix of arts, crafts, food stalls and gifts daily until December 23rd.  Shop for artisan crafts at the brand new, 3x3m pop up canopies, in the traditional red and green colours of the season.

Roaring log fires and sumptuous feasts are the staple ingredients for a cracking Christmas so how about The Parsonage Grill at Oxford for your Christmas party or get together with family and friends or how about leaving the hard work to someone else and booking in for the Christmas Day menu? Details at www.parsonagegrill.co.uk/festive-season If you’re looking for somewhere grand that screams Oxford to dine on Christmas Day then head to Quod Restaurant & Bar (https://www.quod.co.uk/food-and-drink/christmas-day/) for three courses and canapes. The unique and beautiful Gees provides an enchanted setting for your seasonal celebration, perfect for that end of year get together. More at www.geesrestaurant.co.uk/festive-season

Want to spice up your Christmas fare? Mowgli Street Food in Oxford’s Westgate is all about the type of food Indians cook and eat at home, tiffins full of fresh, bright, intense flavour. The aromas from the simple dishes cooked fresh in the restaurant each morning will lure you in. Book their feasting menu for the perfect Christmas celebration with a twist. See the menus and book at www.mowglistreetfood.com/restaurants/oxford

Hobbs of Henley are running their popular Santa Cruises again this year. The brilliant Bertie Slippers will have everyone roaring with laughter and will be adding some magic, balloons and puppets to the children’s entertainment. Santa will be in his grotto bearing gifts for all the children. Plus there will be refreshments and biscuits for the kids and a cash bar for the parents. Trips on 16th, 20th and 22nd, booking at www.hobbsofhenley.com/santa-cruises

It’s beginning to look a lot like Christmas with this ultimate feel good, sing-along concert, guaranteed to bring you Christmas cheer and have you dancing in the aisles! The UK’s number one Michael Buble tribute act is taking to the stage of the historic Sheldonian Theatre, Oxford, with a live big band where you can hear best loved hits such as White Christmas, Santa Baby, Holly Jolly Christmas, All I Want For Christmas Is You and many more, performed by candlelight on December 13th.

Give a gift that shows how much you care this Christmas. A pain relieving muscle rub is the perfect gift for anyone looking to genuinely improve the lives of their loved ones. Soothe this season with a groundbreaking anti-inflammatory gel that got Ian Botham back on his feet. Give the gift of relief, with EthicaCBD Sports Gel, for muscles, joints, and tendons. Visit www.ethicacbd.com

QueenMee Accessories supports Aylesbury Women’s Aid

Karen Neville


Celebrate kindness with QueenMee, shop local and support local women in need this Christmas

QueenMee Accessories, the boutique hair accessories and brooch company, is partnering with Aylesbury Women’s Aid for November and December with donations to women and children in the shelter.

For every £100 spent on QueenMee.com, a sparkling hair accessory or piece of jewellery from the collection will be donated to a woman or child resident of the shelter, to give them a Christmas boost.

April Benson, CEO of Aylesbury Women’s Aid said of the initiative: “We know the women and children here are going to love receiving the accessories. We do receive some donations already at Christmas for the children, but we don’t receive much for their mothers. That is why QueenMee’s support is so welcome, as it will give our residents a lovely pick-me-up.”

QueenMee founder, Amanda Waterstone Carthy, is the daughter of well-known Entrepreneur Sir Tim Waterstone, founder of Waterstone’s booksellers. She says: “QueenMee is about celebrating kindness – being kind to yourself, celebrating your own personal style, and giving back as you shop for yourself or others.

“We know that the Christmas period often brings with it an increase in the incidence of domestic abuse, with money worries, increased time spent at home, and alcohol all escalating domestic abuse incidents.

“As a mother myself, I know how important it feels to protect your child – and give them a magical Christmas. I often think of the pain women in abusive relationships experience, and of the impact on their children.

“I am so pleased to be able to do something small to lift survivors of domestic abuse and their children this Christmas.

“I hope the colour and sparkle of the jewellery will bring hope and cheer to the residents of Aylesbury Women’s Aid shelter; and that the mothers and children will enjoy celebrating Christmas in a safe environment together.”

QueenMee Accessories’ collection includes brooches, hair clips, headbands, silk scrunchies, and earrings, all of which make gorgeous gifts – with the bonus of giving back as you shop.

Beautiful, eco-friendly gift wrap is free of charge with every order.

The QueenMee Christmas collection is available to order online at QueenMee.com. Also at John Lewis, High Wycombe – 4th December to 10th December. Waddesdon Manor Christmas Fair – 22nd November to 17th December.

Shop for vintage and pre-loved fashion

Karen Neville


Worth the Weight returns to Oxford Town Hall Saturday, 18th November, from 11am to 5pm

Stay cosy and shop with a clear conscience this November as Worth the Weight returns to Oxford Town Hall on Saturday, 18th November with nine tonnes of handpicked vintage and pre-owned stock to have a rummage through, including a great range of autumn coats and jackets to keep you cosy this season.

There will be 60 rails of clothing, where shoppers can pick and mix from the best denim, sports, ladies fashion, men’s fashion, outerwear and accessories and pay on the scales at the end. It costs £20 per kilo, with prices starting from as little as £1. It’s a cost-effective way of getting bulk sustainable clothing and helping the environment at the same time. Heavier items will be capped at £20. Even if it weighs over a kilo, you’ll never pay more than £20 for 1 item! Make sure to point out heavy items to your server at the till to redeem the discount.

Based in Sheffield, Worth the Weight was founded in 2018 as a way of fighting fast fashion. Since its inception, the company has taken the UK by storm travelling the length and breadth of the country with tonnes of amazing vintage stock every weekend.

Chris Davies, Worth the Weight organiser, said: “Oxford is always a great place to come this time of year, knitwear is always very popular, so we’ve made sure to stock up for all the sustainable fashion pioneers.”
Entry is £3 for early bird and £2 after.

For more details of future events follow the official Worth the Weight Facebook page on https://www.facebook.com/worththeweightvintage/

Call for Wittenham Clumps artists

Round & About


The Earth Trust will welcome you on 13th November artists inspired to use nature to ignite passion for people and planet!

Wittenham Clumps, a source of creative inspiration for centuries, is set to ignite the passion of artists once again with the announcement by environmental charity Earth Trust of an exciting new Artist in Residence programme.

Earth Trust is committed to championing access to and engagement with natural green spaces, and is celebrating the role art can play in deepening our understanding of and connection to the natural world. The initiative aims to harness the transformative power of artistic expression to inspire people to address climate change, biodiversity and wellbeing through meaningful interactions with nature.
Renowned artists such as Paul Nash have long drawn inspiration from the beauty of Wittenham Clumps, producing a diverse range of artworks that reflect their experiences of this historic landscape.
“We’re aiming to ignite a sense of appreciation and understanding of the environment through art,” said Anna Wilson, Head of Experience & Engagement at Earth Trust. “We are excited to be welcoming a new artist who will interact with visitors and create works inspired by our mission and the green spaces of the Wittenham Clumps.”

Earth Trust’s Artist in Residence programme recognises art’s ability to forge renewed bonds between people and the planet, harnessing creativity and wonder to inspire us to build a future where both can flourish.
Once in place, the artist will engage visitors through open studios, talks and interactive activities, lead public workshops inviting participation in the creative process and produce a substantial artwork as a lasting legacy to inspire reflection. Artists working in any medium or style are invited to respond to the brief, and Earth Trust welcomes applications from artists at all stages of their artistic careers. The charity is particularly keen to hear from artists who champion inclusivity and appeal to diverse audiences.
Earth Trust is hosting an open morning event on Monday 13th November where interested artists can tour Earth Trust’s stunning green spaces and learn more about the residency. For more details, please visit earthtrust.org.uk/artist-in-residence/. Applications close on Sunday 19th November.

Youngsters’ wild photography project

Round & About


Exhibition of work by teenagers and children who have discovered a shared talent for wildlife photography on a BBOWT course.

The Youth Nature Photography Project was run by Berkshire, Buckinghamshire & Oxfordshire Wildlife Trust (BBOWT) at the charity’s Nature Discovery Centre (NDC) in Thatcham.

Now the budding snappers are holding an exhibition of their pictures at the centre this half term.

The youngsters on the course all have challenging personal circumstances, ranging from health conditions such as autism and anxiety to being in the care system or coming from a low-income family.

The course was designed to give them opportunities and learn skills they otherwise might not have discovered, and children and parents have said the effect was transformative.

Chris Harrison, whose nine-year-old daughter Sophia joined the course, said: “Thank you so much for including Sophia on the course, it’s given her so much more confidence and drive to get out of her comfort zone and explore the outside. It’s been great to see the transformation. I’m so proud of her for what she’s produced and her interest isn’t showing any sign of waning. Thank you for everything you taught her as well as giving her the opportunity. She’s loved it and it’s still all she wants to talk about.”

Gia Gomes’s15-year-old son Caleb also joined the course, she said: “Thanks so much for the opportunity. He’s really enjoyed it and learnt a lot and he loves the camera. He really wants you to know that he’s appreciated everyone’s time and input.”

The project was led by BBOWT officer Emma Gray and had three aims: improve participants’ wellbeing, teach them new skills and foster a new connection to the natural world.

Studies have shown that spending time in nature can lower blood pressure and heart rate, reduce anxiety, and improve mood. The Wildlife Trust also encourages all people to spend time in nature to build a sense of connection that can inspire action for wildlife and climate.

The photography workshops at the NDC were led by professional photographer Toni Cross and the young students used professional-quality cameras supplied by BBOWT which they have been allowed to take home on a long-term loan to keep practicing. The whole project was funded by the Robert Pilgrim Photographic Trust.

Commenting on the success of the course, Emma said: “This has been such a rewarding project to work on. All the participants came with various challenges in their lives but they have engaged brilliantly with all of the workshops and it has been fantastic to see how much they have developed. As well as improving their photography skills and connecting with nature, they have all increased in confidence and developed skills such as listening and patience.

“During one session they were practising their fieldcraft skills, getting down low and moving slowly and quietly so as not to disturb the wildlife they were trying to photograph. They crawled into a thick mass of bushes to try to get a good shot of a deer, and were doing such a good job of being still and quiet that at one point I thought I had lost them all! In another session, one of the participants brought her therapy dog River along so they could practise getting shots of a moving animal. They all had a lot of fun doing this, but I don’t think any of us expected she would run so fast.”

The Youth Nature Photography Project Exhibition will open in the visitor centre at the NDC on Saturday, 21st October, with a small ceremony at 11am, and will run to the following Saturday. The centre is open every day in half term 10am to 5pm. Full details at bbowt.org.uk/events

Join The Big Wild Walk

Round & About


Get active for nature: walk, run, cycle, wheel or swim for wildlife!

The Wildlife Trusts’ Big Wild Walk is set to be the most exciting yet with its new ambassador Rhiane Fatinikun backing this year’s challenge.

Rhiane is an award-winning outdoors advocate and community organiser. She founded Black Girls Hike (BGH UK) in 2019 to challenge the stereotypes and lack of representation in the outdoors.

This year Big Wild Walk participants can create their own adventure, whether that’s by walking, running, cycling, wheeling, or swimming, offering flexibility for getting involved. Funds raised will help wildlife recover and contribute towards The Wildlife Trusts’ goal of protecting 30% of UK’s land and sea for nature by 2030.

Liz Shearer, Community Engagement Director at Berkshire, Buckinghamshire & Oxfordshire Wildlife Trust, said: “The Big Wild Walk enables all of us to get involved, however we like, while having fun and feeling good about doing something for wildlife. I love nothing more than putting my boots on and exploring the outdoors, and there are some wonderful places across our counties to do this, including our 80+ nature reserves.

“The brilliant part about this challenge is that you can take it at your own pace and plan your own adventure. It’s also a great opportunity to raise money for The Wildlife Trusts, including BBOWT, to help us create more nature everywhere. What are you waiting for?”

The Wildlife Trusts are leading a swathe of projects across the UK to reintroduce keystone species such as beavers, revive marine habitats such as kelp forests and create more space for nature by rewilding larger areas.

This autumn, the Wildlife Trusts also team up with Aardman Animations to co-create Timmy Time materials to encourage families with young children to take part.

The specially-created Hedgehog Walk is designed for pre-school and Key Stage 1 pupils who can choose their own Timmy Time-themed character fundraising pack, including Apricot the hedgehog and Stripey the badger, to complete the challenge with. The challenge is to walk 3km in a week, the same distance a hedgehog travels each night.

The Big Wild Walk takes place during half term from Monday 16 to Monday 30 October 2023. Sign up at wildlifetrusts.org/bigwildwalk

Rhiane Fatinikun, founder of Black Girls Hike and ambassador for The Wildlife Trusts, says: “Spending time hiking in nature is incredibly special and I love sharing my experiences of the outdoors with others. I’m absolutely delighted to become an ambassador for The Wildlife Trusts as the Big Wild Walk gets underway. I started my journey into the great outdoors with no hiking experience so I’m keen to encourage everyone, no matter their ability or background, to take that first step. Signing up to the Big Wild Walk is a fantastic way to support nature and wild places whilst doing something you love. Or mix it up and turn it into a run, swim or bike ride – the choice is yours! I hope lots of you join us this October to champion nature by having a wild adventure no matter how big or small.”

Steve Brown, television presenter and athlete mentor, says: “All my life, I’ve found the greatest pleasure in exploring the countryside and championing our wild places. I believe nothing should hold you back from enjoying the great outdoors and it’s so exciting that The Wildlife Trusts’ Big Wild Walk this year invites participants to take up the challenge in whatever way that works for them. Whether you choose to walk, run, cycle, wheel, or swim, I’d encourage everyone to sign up and invite their family and friends to join in the fun too. However big or small your adventure, all funds raised by taking part in the Big Wild Walk will contribute towards The Wildlife Trusts’ goal of protecting and connecting 30% of UK’s land and sea for nature by 2030. Feeling inspired, start planning your challenge now?!”

Kate Cook, brand manager at Aardman says: “We are delighted to champion this fantastic challenge through our Timmy Time characters, specifically engaging younger participants through the Hedgehog Walk. We hope families love our character packs and learn something new about the incredible wildlife around them along the way.”

The Big Wild Walk takes place during half term from Monday 16th to Monday 30th October. Sign up at wildlifetrusts.org/bigwildwalk

Garden Invaders

Round & About


There are many plants that can inadvertently take over our gardens, particularly weeds, but there are some beautiful plants on sale that you can wonder why you ever planted. These are my own experiences and everyone will have a different gripe, says R&A gardener Cathie Welch

Houttuynia cordata ‘Chamaeleon’ (pictured)

A beautiful plant often sold for ponds and waterside planting now rampaging in my edible border. It is edible but not very nice. It spreads underground by rhizomes and pops up everywhere gathering momentum after its winter sleep.


This is where it is essential to do your homework. There are bamboos and there are bamboos. Avoid at all costs the running away ones that can colonise gardens and invade those of your neighbours as well as lift up paths, destroy foundations and puncture pond liners. I tend to choose Phylostachys aurea and nigra which are clump forming with beautiful stems but they are quite high maintenance needing to be thinned and trimmed constantly. Occasionally an unwanted shoot pops up but it is important to cut it off. You are in charge of your plants and not vice versa.


Helianthus is the Genus which includes the annual sunflower. There are several perennial varieties that spread indefinitely if you don’t keep them in check. They also spread by underground tubers and as anyone who has grown Jerusalem artichokes on their allotment will know.


This is a very pretty fern-like spreading shrub colonising the whole of Thursley common and the surrounding gardens. It is readily on sale in garden centres but never plant it in your garden unless you have the room.

Anemone japonica

I mentioned these in my last article and have battled with them in many a small garden. There are tall invasive varieties but also delightful cultivars like ‘Frilly Knickers’ which I can’t grow at all. They need a regular cull so just choose carefully.


There are many other invasive garden plants like Hypericum calycinum which spreads like mad but is great for banks as is Vinca major or periwinkle. There are many Buddleias and Ivies that do not seed and are not invasive. All plants have their right place. Choose your plants and their location carefully and do a little research on your soil type as one person’s thug plant may not even thrive in your garden.

CGS Courses

Please ask for details as I am now meeting potential students for Spring Courses as well as bespoke workshops and volunteering. I can also come and teach you in your own garden and am happy to chat over a coffee at Ashdene.

Consultancy gift vouchers available too.

Website Cathie’s Gardening School: Surrey’s Garden School

Email [email protected]

A new lease of life

Karen Neville


Second Hand September, upcycling furniture and repair cafes are all fabulous ways to fall in love again with something you once cherished, not only will it save you money but you’ll be doing your bit to help save the planet too!

How often have you bought something (often on impulse) got it back home only for it to loiter in the back of your wardrobe unworn for years? It’s probably something we’ve all been guilty of at one time, so this month rather than a) buy it at all or b) leave it lurking unloved, why not get involved in Second Hand September?

Find out how to get involved where you live