Maymessy magic

Round & About

Wantage & Faringdon

Maymessy is the empowering West Challow cookery school which recently marked its first anniversary with a celebratory food festival, writes its founder Anna Richards.

We celebrated our first year in style, offering young carers and their families an afternoon of respite in our beautiful grounds.

It was super fun with circus skills, a rock choir, helter-skelter, bouncy castle, face painting and stalls. We ran our own Bake Off style competition, and were delighted to have it judged by BBC and Round & About magazine star Christine Wallace.

Maymessy opened its doors just over a year ago after transforming a disused cowshed into a state-of-the-art training kitchen. Adult cookery courses are run on demand and Maymessy works with schools, charities and youth groups to provide classes for young, vulnerable people. Children learn about teamwork, they strengthen their confidence and self-esteem while learning about healthy eating and wellbeing.

With more than 2,700 young carers in the county and the number rising, Maymessy saw the festival as a great opportunity to raise vital funds. Ten per cent of the proceeds were donated to Oxfordshire charity, Be Free Young Carers.

We were very grateful to receive grants from the Vale of White Horse District Council, Tesco in Faringdon and the Big Lottery, as well as refreshments from Waitrose in Faringdon. We’re now looking forward to the year ahead and continuing our work with empowering young people. We’d love to hear from local businesses who would be interested in supporting our enterprise and helping to bring our vision to fruition.

Visit or email [email protected]

Wild things

Round & About

Wantage & Faringdon

On Saturday, 14th July, enjoy an afternoon of wildlife discovery, writes Peter Anderson

Big cats? Perhaps not. But experts and enthusiasts will be on hand with a variety of bats, bugs, bees, butterflies, moths, reptiles and small mammals; animals you’d only normally see on television.

Head to a free Wildlife Discovery Day, 2-4.30pm, organised by the conservation group and Berks, Bucks and Oxon Wildlife Trust (BBOWT), at Letcombe Valley Nature Reserve OX12 9JU.

The event is suitable for all ages, (under-18s must be accompanied by a responsible adult). There will also be den building, nature craft and mud kitchens along with a chance to make a bird box or even your own fossil.

Letcombe Valley is a rare habitat; the brook is one of Oxfordshire two chalk streams (there are about 150 across the country). The clear waters are home to unusual, interesting wildlife including water vole and fish such as brown trout and brook lamprey.

The nature reserve has a café and gift shop, from which you can take self-guided tours of the reserve and discover what to find where. This is your chance to watch kingfishers hunt across the valley, flashing blue as their piercing call echoes all around. Then, silent and still like statues at the streamside, herons and egrets wait for their own tasty treats. Return at dusk and the kingfishers are replaced by Daubenton’s bat skimming the water, gorging on the insects found in the surrounding lakes.

Any donations enable BBOWT to not only put on magnificent events like this, but also to aid their work as custodians of cherished parts of our countryside so generations to come will still be able to enjoy it. For further information on this event and others, visit

Flute force

Round & About

Wantage & Faringdon

On Saturday, 7th July, head to Old Mill Hall in Grove to enjoy a performance by star musician Jeremy Salter

Jeremy Salter has had a long association with Wantage Orchestra. Although now primarily a flautist, Wantage-born Jeremy started on the piano at the age of seven. He later took up violin, oboe and flute before settling on flute as a student at the University of Manchester.

After graduating in 2015, Jeremy stayed in the city to complete a Masters in flute performance at the prestigious Royal Northern College of Music. Jeremy was delighted to be offered the opportunity to work for leading music for health organisation LIME, bringing music to the paediatric wards of Manchester Children’s Hospital for patients and carers. Last year he participated in Adages, an Arts Council-funded oratorio composed by Holly Marland and inspired by the musical creations and experiences of those living with dementia. Jeremy was recently appointed a house assistant at Chetham’s School of Music and enjoys teaching all ages.

Wantage Orchestra was founded in February 1977 to provide an opportunity for local musicians, including children, to play together. They rehearse on Tuesday evenings, 7.30-9.30pm during term time, at King Alfred’s Sports and Community College West site, OX12 9DU. New players are welcome and the group normally gives three concerts a year.

On Saturday, 7th July, 7.30-9.30pm, at Old Mill Hall in Grove, Jeremy will perform a programme including Suppe’s Overture Poet & Peasant, Ibert’s Flute concerto (solo) and Brahms’ Symphony no. 2. Please visit

Christine Wallace: in the mix!

Round & About

Wantage & Faringdon

Hello everyone! Is it just me or is there a feelgood factor in the air recently?

In general people seem to be quite happy and smiley. Just passing someone in the street or at the shops seems to generate a “hello” and my goodness, doesn’t it make you feel good!? I put it down to summer, the weather isn’t bad and holidays are on everyone’s mind so lots to be happy about. There also might be a measure of trying to forget that we live in quite a troubled world and the news can be depressing so let’s just live for the day! Whatever it is, I hope it lasts!

July brings hedgerows heavy with berries, fennel to liven up salads and lots more including aubergines and courgettes. Cherries and peaches are at their best and the glorious gooseberry is here. The poor gooseberry doesn’t get a good press and it’s hard to find them, even in farm shops. But there are wonderful recipes using this vitamin C-rich fruit; poached gooseberries with a creamy vanilla custard, gooseberry compote which is super used in cakes or to top a cheesecake, gooseberry jam or the very delicious gooseberry fool. Take 400g gooseberries and cook with 50g sugar over a low heat for 10-15 minutes until soft. Remove from the heat, crush and cool. Pour two tablespoons of elderflower cordial and 1tbsp lemon juice into 400ml double cream and whisk to medium peaks. Add 4 tablespoons of ready-made custard. Fold half the gooseberries into the mixture. Spoon half into four glasses. Layer the rest of the gooseberries, then top with the rest of the cream mix. Chill until ready to serve. You’ll love it!

Also in shops is new-season lamb (the best is from Kent). Lamb breast is a great make-ahead meal – slow cooking turns a cheap cut into a luxury. Tom Kerridge’s breast of lamb with broccoli, anchovy and caper dressing is lovely!

The Greeks and Romans are returning! Stretch Didcot’s Roman Festival at the Didcot Girls School on Saturday, 7th July (10.30am-5pm) will have more than 20 different experts and events, including me! Tickets are a fantastic £4.

Visit and please get in touch!