Peppard writer’s inspirational love letter

Round & About

Berkshire

Peppard writer Glenn Bryant has just published his first novel available now in The Bell Bookshop in Henley and Fourbears Books in Caversham

What would you do to survive if you were suddenly arrested in your own home? That’s the question posed by local author Glenn Bryant in his debut novel, Darkness Does Not Come At Once.

Four years ago he began writing inspired by a lifelong interest in the Holocaust and the question: how could ordinary people do something, in the worst sense beyond imagination, so extraordinary? Glenn learnt specifically how people with disabilities were targeted and says he knew he always wanted to write about that in this psychological thriller set on the edge of Berlin, 85 years ago.

He explains: “That deeper societal question was my motivation. My inspiration was Juliet, my wife, who has a spinal cord injury and a level of paralysis. We’re so happy together. My novel, at its heart, is simply a love letter to her.”

A “love letter” which on many occasions Juliet was unaware Glenn was writing as he would take to his keyboard first thing in the morning while she was still sleeping.

“Setting out to write a book is a commitment. It’s unavoidable. But… You can commit to it on your terms. I wrote three days a week: Fridays, Saturdays and Sundays, the days I wasn’t working,” he says. “I was most interested in how many words I had written. I was aiming for 1,000 a day. From my document history, I can see I was writing a touch over 10,000 words a month. And in eight months, I had reached 85,000 words and the end of a first draft. Then the hard work starts.”

But having always wanted to write since he was a teenager he wasn’t deterred by rejections and knock backs from publishers and literary agents despite constantly asking himself “is your work ever going to see the light of day?”

Glenn adds: “You’re really on your own, and you feel it, so you have to be your own life coach and therapist too, and pick yourself up from the lows. But once I was through those moments, I pretty much loved the whole experience. I’m at the beginning of my journey as an author.”

And while he has plans for no more at this stage and is 100 per cent focused on this first work, he concedes: “I’m sure I will one day. You just need that gem of an idea to lodge in your head and I will be away, starting all over again with a blank Word document.”

Join Glenn for a relaxed Q&A style talk about the book on Friday 7th June, 7pm-8pm at Fourbears Books, 20 Prospect Street, Caversham. Enjoy free entry and complimentary wine when you get there.

Go wild this June for BBOWT

Round & About

Berkshire

Do one wild thing every day for a month this summer, as the UK’s biggest free nature challenge returns for its 10th anniversary from June 1st to 30th.

Could you do one thing to connect with nature every day for a month and feel happier and healthier as a result? That is the 30 Days Wild challenge being laid down by Berkshire, Buckinghamshire & Oxfordshire Wildlife Trust (BBOWT).

This June promises to be a bumper 30 Days Wild – people of all ages and abilities are urged to participate and BBOWT are offering free herb seeds and an inspirational guide to everyone who signs up to do one wild thing every day during the month. There are also special packs for schools, businesses and care homes.

Estelle Bailey, Chief Executive of BBOWT, said: “With wildlife in crisis across the UK, it seems fair to ask – are we still a nation of nature lovers? I believe the answer is a resounding yes. This year is the 10th anniversary of both 30 Days Wild and my own time with Berkshire, Buckinghamshire & Oxfordshire Wildlife Trust. Over those 10 years I’ve had the privilege of seeing our communities’ commitment to restoring nature where they live and enjoying all it has to offer. While our first year of running 30 Days Wild saw just over five hundred people sign up across our three countries, last year more than four thousand took on the challenge, which is brilliant.

“This momentum comes as no great surprise – connecting with nature is so important for our sanity and general wellbeing. My top tips to enjoy 30 Days Wild: Sit, walk, run, lay on the grass, look up, look down, fix on something, don’t be afraid to touch or smell it. Smile at the sun, throw your arms out in the rain, get wet, walk barefoot on grass and bare earth, have a cuddle with a tree – be in the moment.”

Supported by players of People’s Postcode Lottery, 30 Days Wild encourages individuals, families, schools, and businesses to connect with nature on a daily basis during what many argue is the best month for wildlife spotting. It could be going on a snail safari, eating your breakfast outdoors or closing your eyes to listen for bird song, to more adventurous endeavours such as outdoor yoga or forest bathing. This year’s participants will receive a special 10th anniversary park, designed to make their 30 days even more fun.

The 10th anniversary marks a real milestone for The Wildlife Trusts’ flagship 30 Days Wild initiative. The nature challenge has grown from 12,000 participants nationally in its first year to over half a million last year alone. 30 Days Wild has helped people to get outside, enjoy and connect with nature as part of their everyday lives.

Research has consistently highlighted the positive impact of nature on well-being. A study found a significant increase in people’s health, happiness, and connection to nature through participating in 30 Days Wild. People reported feeling more relaxed, reduced stress levels, and a greater motivation to protect wildlife which lasted long after the campaign ended.

So why not get in touch with your wild side this summer? Sign up today and receive a free pack in the post, plus lots of inspiration for activities: bbowt.org.uk/30-days-wild

Jump into the GAP

Round & About

Berkshire

Have you got your GAP Festival tickets yet? Ten day extravaganza kicks off on June 7th

The biennial cultural GAP Festival in Goring and Streatley will welcome festival goers to its incredible programme of over 50 exciting events in June.

Some events still have a few last tickets remaining. So if you haven’t got yours yet, or you are looking for a last minute opportunity to try something new, visit The Gap Festival to book yourself in and join this cultural extravaganza! As a registered charity, every ticket purchased goes back into bringing culture to the community. How about…

World-class mandolin player and wit Simon Mayor and Friends in a relaxed evening of magical music and humorous anecdotes on Friday 7th June.

The spectacular red carpet premiere of the shortlisted Children’s Film Festival short films, alongside a screening of The Super Mario Bros. Movie (PG) on Sunday 9th June.

For crime drama and true crime lovers, An Audience with Author Helen Saxton, with actors will re-enact key events and discuss the controversial story of Amanda Knox in the murder of Meredith Kercher on Monday 10th June.

Outdoor family theatre in an idyllic setting on the banks of the Thames, with a performance of The Adventures of Doctor Dolittle on Thursday 13th June.

A one hour family show of songs about science, maths and the wonders of the world around us with Helen Arney: A Voice of an Angle – as seen on BBC2, Channel 4 and Discovery – on Friday 14th June.

Step back in time, put on some 40s/50s glamour (or not!), sit back and tap your feet to the doo-wop harmonies of the Ding Dong Daddios on Saturday 15th June.

Enjoy a Glyndebourne-style opera experience, with GAP Opera: The Marriage of Figaro. Picnics, pimms, fizz and top class opera in three performances Friday 14th – Sunday 16th June.

Alongside the amazing variety of ticketed events, there are also a host of free activities and performances taking place, no ticket required – just drop in.

On Friday 7th June, pre-schoolers can bring their parents to join a morning of games, free play and interactive story with a Teddy Bear’s Picnic.

Join the cosmic fun of Saturday 8th June and experience all that Space Day has to offer, including blasting off a water rocket, space crafting, scale-model solar system treasure hunt and the chance to track the International Space Station live with local satellite company OrbAstro.

Visit Goring’s Rectory Garden on Sunday 9th June to join the Festival’s contribution to the national Great Big Green Week – The Great Green Food Day. Head down and discover creative ways to let eating and food play a vital part in helping tackle climate change, reduce waste and protect nature. Bring a picnic and enjoy live music, ask the experts question time, stalls, children’s activities and more, or pick up lunch from the collection of food and drink stalls and enjoy all the day has to offer.

Saturday 15th June hosts the return of the popular Festival Market Day. Enjoy browsing crafts, arts and skills from the local community, alongside face painting, refreshments and live music.

Meet and Greet the Owls at Withymead Nature Reserve on Saturday 15th June and learn all about owls, how they hunt, owl conservation and have a go at pellet dissection.

For art enthusiasts, there is a celebration of community art with a weekend long Art Exhibition from Saturday 15th – Sunday 16th June.

A chance to have a go at bell ringing with the Goring and Streatley ringers, followed by a lunchtime Festival Picnic Concert with Goring and Streatley concert band on the final day of the Festival – Sunday 16th June.

Plus a host of ‘fringe’ music events, popping up in local venues where you can sit back and soak up the Festival atmosphere with a drink in hand.

Find out all you need to know to make the most of this year’s Festival during the ten-day period and book your last minute tickets by visiting https://www.thegapfestival.org/

Support Thames Valley Air Ambulance

Round & About

Berkshire

Thames Valley Air Ambulance celebrates 25 years and you’re invited to join the party and help their life saving work

In 1999, Thames Valley Air Ambulance first took to the skies to treat patients in critical need. Now, a quarter of a century and nearly 35,000 call outs later they are celebrating this milestone with a fun-filled family day for the whole community on June 22nd at Penn Estate.

Amanda McLean, Chief Executive Officer at Thames Valley Air Ambulance said: “Both the care we deliver at the scene and the support we offer long afterwards are funded solely by our community. It’s your generous donations that have allowed us to be there for these 35,000 people in their time of need.”

Their ‘Big Birthday Bash’ will include a variety of fun activities for both kids and adults to enjoy, from circus shows and workshops to special demonstrations from their crew plus plenty of delicious food and drinks from local vendors.

Tickets start from £4 and all proceeds go to help Thames Valley Air Ambulance continue to be there for those in most need across Berkshire, Buckinghamshire and Oxfordshire. More at Big Birthday Bash – Thames Valley Air Ambulance

Did you know:
• Last year, we were called out 3,293 times to help people in need of urgent critical care.
• We are called out on average 9 times a day.
• The flight time between our base at RAF Benson and anywhere in Berkshire, Buckinghamshire, or Oxfordshire is just 15 minutes.
• To find out more about the work of Thames Valley Air Ambulance and donate visit Thames Valley Air Ambulance

elbow at Heritage Live 2024

Round & About

Berkshire

Support acts announced for elbow at Heritage Live 2024

The line-up for Heritage Live 2024 at Englefield Estate is absolutely stellar! Villagers and Hamish Hawk are both incredible acts that promise to deliver an unforgettable experience alongside elbow.

Villagers’ upcoming album “That Golden Time” sounds like it will be a masterpiece, blending Conor O’Brien’s lyrical prowess with his signature melodic finesse. The inclusion of renowned musicians like Dónal Lunny and Peter Broderick only adds to the anticipation for what promises to be a collection of songs shimmering with vulnerability and authenticity.

And Hamish Hawk’s “Laziest River” EP seems like it will offer a deeply introspective journey through his soulful lyricism and stripped-back instrumentation. His commitment to artistic integrity shines through, making his performance a must-see for anyone attending the concert.

Of course, elbow’s presence is the cherry on top. With their recent number one album “Audio Vertigo” showcasing a departure in style while maintaining their signature sound, fans can expect a dynamic and captivating performance. And classics like “One Day Like This” and “Grounds for Divorce” are sure to get everyone singing along.

Heritage Live 2024 at Englefield Estate is shaping up to be a concert for the ages, blending extraordinary talents and iconic sounds for an evening of music, emotion, and transcendence. It’s an event not to be missed!

For more information and to buy tickets visit: elbow tickets in Berkshire at Englefield House

Donnington Valley raises autumn spirits

Liz Nicholls

Berkshire

Missed summer? You’re sure to feel the glow with a minibreak at Donnington Valley Hotel, Golf & Spa

Summer this year has offered a bit of a false dawn: a scorching few weeks followed by soggy second half…

But if you weren’t able to jet off to sunnier climes August onwards (like the rest of the world, judging by social media) I recommend a stay at Donnington Valley where the warm welcome is sure to top up your mojo levels.

Backing on to the rolling landscaped golf course (which is even prettier in autumn mizzle) the privately owned four-star hotel and spa has earned rave reviews and several industry awards for its top-notch hospitality and food. No wonder it’s become a popular choice for everyone, from walkers to wedding parties.

I arrived in the middle of a stressful week, fairly frazzled, and within about five minutes of being ushered into the calm sanctuary of the spa, Gabriele had kneaded the tension from my poor shoulders with a Sonoma Aromatherapy Massage. As well as feeling a warm afterglow which lasted days afterwards, the indulgent Germaine de Capuccini skincare products left even my knackered skin feeling peachy and bright.

There are lots of great packages on offer, such as the half spa day including a 25-minute treatment tailored to you, such as a Walkers Leg Therapy massage or an express Royal Jelly De-Stress Facial. You can enjoy a bento box or afternoon tea and plenty of time to relax in (or alongside) the turquoise pool which is a heavenly haven with a jacuzzi, sauna and aromatherapy room – or hit the gym as well if you haven’t melted into total relaxation by that point. If you have opted for a spa break (check out the autumn package deals) you can then float along the corridor and straight into an immaculate room for a totally restful and comfortable sleep in a luxurious kingsize bed, and you can keep the good vibes going the following morning with the best breakfast in Berkshire.

Strictly Pro Dancer Karen Hauer recently checked in to The HangOut, Donnington Valley’s an al fresco dining grill and chill area where she and star chef Darren made their own pizzas hot & crispy from the oven. The HangOut has stayed abuzz all summer and continues to sizzle into September, under the fairylights. You can settle in (under cover if the heavens open) to relax and enjoy a perfectly mixed cocktail or glass of wine or three, with live music on Saturday evenings. Inside (in the huge cosy beamed Bacchus wine bar and restaurant) or out, the food is of epic feast proportions: I can heartily recommend the Donnington Burger with Ogleshield cheese and the trio of Berkshire sausages with bacon bubble and sticky onion jus. Sunday roasts (12-2.30pm) also earn high praise – and all the winter warmers are sure to raise your spirits even on a cold day.

The staff are amazingly kind and helpful and will help you forget your everyday cares and worries – I felt as though I’d been away somewhere far-off for a few days.

A new lease of life

Karen Neville

Berkshire

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 all or b) leave it lurking unloved, why not get involved in Second Hand September?

The Oxfam run project has been going since 2019 inspiring people to shop in a way that is kinder to the planet and with the recent record temperatures much of Europe has been experiencing it’s only too easy to see the effect of climate change.

In September 2022 more than 26,000 people only bought second hand during the campaign and as one shopper remarked when the initiative launched “I didn’t buy any new clothes for 30 days. Then it became two months and now it’s been nearly four years!”

By buying, wearing and donating second hand clothes you’re helping to reduce the demand for new and thus helping to reduce the damage to the planet. Did you know an estimated 16.2kg of CO2 is emitted for every pair of jeans made, that’s the same as driving around 58 miles in a car.

And it doesn’t just stop with clothing, Oxfam shops and online offer an extensive range of homewares, books and toys too. There are stores aplenty all over, visit Find your local Oxfam Shop to find your nearest one and get donating and buying pre-loved now.

The wonderfully named Absolutely Mintage is the home of upcycled furniture in Bracknell where owner Julia fuses modern and vintage furniture to help keep your traditional home furnishings by turning them into something beautifully decorative and current.

She fell in love with painting furniture as a result of a home renovation in 2015 but adds that while she loves this, “I also have a healthy respect for the craftsmanship of vintage and antique furniture due to the beauty of the wood and the design. Sometimes it is better to showcase the wood and its grain with sanding and oiling or staining, so I spend time assessing each piece I am thinking about painting.”

“As time goes on, my horror of the amount of material waste that goes into landfill increases,” Julia explains. “I have seen perfectly good furniture discarded as it no longer ‘fits’ with a person’s decor and yet through refreshing a piece, it looks as good as new! My motto is very much ‘don’t throw it away!’. Upcycling has allowed me to embrace my passion and explore the limitless number of options there are to create unique finishes while still being able to enjoy the beautiful designs and workmanship of antique furniture.”

If you’re looking for inspiration to revive a much-loved piece of your own, Julia also runs workshops in upcycling, decoupage and furniture painting. Check out her website for more at Upcycled furniture – Absolutely Mintage.

A love of old things, balancing elegance with rustic finishes and authentic materials is the basis of White Door Antiques, founded by Pangbourne antique dealer Elise Harris. Her brocante events bring the affordable style of a French brocante to the countryside with a beautiful array of antique and vintage dealers from all over the country. Look out for future events at White Door Brocante.

Pretty much anything can be recycled, upcycled or repaired and if you need a little help then head to a repair café. The free meeting places invite you to repair your toaster or other appliance, a bike or piece of furniture and just about any items you can think of! They’ll provide all the tools and materials you need there’s expert help on hand to assist you. Repair cafés aim to bring about a shift away from consumerism and viewing household items as disposable.

“If it’s broken, bring it along and we are sure to have a go or at least provide some advice about what your best course of action might be.” So say Reading Repair Café who also invite you to come along with repairs you want to do yourself or craft projects you’re working on. The event is run entirely by volunteers and anyone can pop in! As well as repairs, you can pop in for a cuppa and homemade cake. Everything is free, but donations are encouraged to ensure the cafe can keep running.

Their next meetings are: Sept 17th – The Greyfriar, Reading; Oct 15th – RISC, London Street; Nov 19th – rLab Reading Hackspace, Weldale Street.

The helpful folk at Hungerford Repair Café have recently fixed a toy boat, a winter coat with a torn seam and a blocked soda stream. They want to help the community learn how to repair their broken things in an enjoyable and sociable setting. Volunteers are able to either help mend or advise the owners about how to fix or obtain spare parts, regularly saving about 50kg of waste going into landfill or other recycling facilities. They next meet at The Croft on September 16th and November 18th.

To find a repair cafe near you go to repaircafe.org/en/visit/

Sobell House cookbook Matt Allwright Q&A

Liz Nicholls

Berkshire

Matt Allwright, one of the stars whose recipes are featured in Food & Wellness: The Sobell House Vegetarian Cook Book, shares his thoughts about local life, good causes and consumer rights…

Q. Hi Matt. It’s great that you’ve been involved in the new Sobell House cookbook. What’s your recipe? “It’s the chilli jam I make every year. I grow my own chillis and I never know quite how hot it’s going to be until its done. Last year it was so hot that you just had to show the jar to a piece of cheese, and that was enough, even with the lid on…”

Q. Is there anything you eat or don’t eat? “I eat everything. Not a massive fan of avocado, but I’ll cope. I’m a grateful diner, and I eat with gusto. I had a real problem with beetroot for years, and now it’s one of my favourite things, so it just goes to show nothing’s really off-limits. Christmas is traditional. There is too much at stake to mess with the formula.”

Q. Why is Sobell House a great charity, deserving of support, including yours? “My good friend Tom is the music therapist at Sobell House. They don’t see our last days and weeks as a waiting game. They see it as an opportunity to help find meaning, to tell a story to heal the spirit and calm the mind. I would love to think that when the time comes, we could all have someone to help us write songs, to tend gardens, to do whatever we think is significant, and to give us the chance to share important ideas and feelings with our loved ones. That’s proper work.”

Q. You’re familiar to millions as a defender of consumer rights… Do rogue traders really make your blood boil? “We always start the process by meeting someone who has been affected by the actions of the trader. You can’t ignore that face-to-face experience. From that point the whole team knows it’s their job to confront the rogue to get answers. I don’t’ feel anger, more a sense of duty to hold to account and bring change. I don’t like letting people down, especially when they’ve taken a risk to talk to us. Also: if you are born with the annoying ability to ask questions when running backwards or being jet washed, you’d better use that power for good.” 

Q.  Do you feel that as a nation we’re bad at fighting for our rights or complaining? “Not everyone feels they can speak out enough when things aren’t right. When someone tries to impose a way of life on us, or harms with their actions, we can be submissive, or worry about the consequences of standing up for ourselves or others. That’s how bullies get their way, and I’ve always grown up hating bullying. Sometimes you need someone to point out what’s wrong, even if they risk being unpopular by doing so. I try to make my point firmly but politely, bearing in mind that my view is not the only one. You’re much better off if you can find middle ground, but with some people that’s just not possible.” 

Growing up

Q. How was your experience of growing up in Berkshire? “Berkshire was always good to me. I was lucky to have a comfortable home in a fun town full of music and friends supported by parents who loved me. I met my wife on the streets of Reading when we were both at school. That’s the most important thing that’s ever happened to me, so thank you, Berkshire.”  

Q. What are your favourite aspects of life in Berkshire, and where are your favourite haunts? “I’m lucky that I meet a lot of volunteers through the Pride of Reading Awards and the other organisations I work with. There are so many people who help others because it’s right – not seeking recognition or advancement. These people see the instinctively try to fill the gaps left by society, and they far outweigh the rogues and bullies. Haunts? I love the river. The slipway at Aston near Henley on a spring morning is hard to beat.”  

Q. Your dog Ozzy looks cute! Is he? What’s been the most rewarding, and most frustrating, aspect of being a dog owner? “Ozzy is my first dog, and I could never have imagined how wonderful he’d be. He’s transformed family life. Dogs are the greatest gift, like someone decided to parcel up the best bits of humans: loyalty, playfulness and enthusiasm, and then cover them in fur. He barks far too much, eats anything and smells dreadful.”  

Q. We’re also supporting Launchpad Reading this month. Why do local heroes working to prevent homelessness also deserve our support, especially at this time of year? “I’ve been a patron of Launchpad for years. The work they do, to help people find homes, and then support them in those homes, is incredible. All charities, particularly local ones, are struggling right now, due to the cost of living crisis. Anything we can do to help Launchpad and others continue and extend their work, will have a huge effect on someone, somewhere, who doesn’t live that far away, and has had some bad luck. So please, donate, volunteer and spread the word.” 

Q. Who is your favourite author? “George Orwell. Most people think of the darkness and dystopia of 1984. They don’t always see the humour or the love of nature in his writing which stems from his childhood in Henley and Shiplake. Everywhere tries to lay claim to Orwell, but from clues in his writing it seems to me that Berkshire was where he was happiest, fishing in the river, walking alone through the woods and fields, identifying birds and plants.”  

Q. Can you tell us a bit about your love for Bracknell Bees? “The day the ice rink closed was terrible for the community. We loved watching the team play, and being part of the wonderful world of hockey. The players were rough and tough on the ice, but patient and thoughtful with the kids who were learning the game. I imagine they’ll build flats on the site at some point, but the families that live in them won’t have anything as great as the rink to keep them happy.”  

Q. Finally, if you could make one wish for the world, what would it be? “Just tolerance, really. Understanding that just because someone doesn’t think, sound or look like you, or come from where you do, it doesn’t make them some sort of threat. We might have lost a bit of that.” 

The Sobell House Vegetarian Cook Book is out on 8th November. To buy a copy of this 128-page paperback for £17.50 visit Sobell House or buy from Waterstones and Amazon.

Shooting stars in wildlife photo competition

Round & About

Berkshire

Well done to all the wildlife lovers who took part in the Berkshire, Buckinghamshire & Oxfordshire Wildlife Trust (BBOWT) competition who snapped some beautiful sights at local nature reserves and green spaces and showed how nature can help our mental health

Winning entries include this stunning shot of a buzzard in flight, this pin-sharp picture of a tiny shield bug emerging from a garden flower and a portrait of a pensive kingfisher.

The winner of this year’s children’s category was eight-year-old Roly Lewis from Oxford. The North Hinksey Primary School pupil took his fantastic photo of a shield bug, poking its head out of a flower in his own front garden.

Roly said: “I wanted to enter the competition, so I took lots of wildlife pictures all spring and summer. I thought this photo was my best one because the blossom was a nice background, and the shield bug had an amazing colour and pattern. This made me look closely at shield bugs which are really amazing. My mum told me I had won when I came out of school, and I was so excited I jumped up and down. I really wanted to win but I thought there would be so many good photos that I wouldn’t.”

Children Winner – Roly Lewis (8) (Sheildbug)
Children Runner Up – Hayden Denham (7) (Hummingbird Hawkmoth)

The Wildlife Trust restarted its popular photo competition this summer after a three-year break because of the pandemic. The charity, which manages more than 80 nature reserves across Berkshire, Buckinghamshire and Oxfordshire, challenged everyone aged six and over to take fantastic photos of plants, animals and fungi at its sites, or to capture action for wildlife in their local area.

Roy McDonald took first place with his crystal-clear shot of a buzzard in mid-air at the Trust’s College Lake reserve near Tring. The 45-year-old former courier driver from Berkhamstead revealed after winning the contest that he has struggled with his mental health for some years, and that wildlife photography had helped. He said: “Nature helps me so much, it’s honest and calming and it doesn’t judge you, and just sometimes, if you are calm and patient, it will allow you to get up close into their world. I always take great pleasure when a creature trusts you enough to not scurry or fly away. But you don’t have to take photos: just being in nature and observing it can give you something to focus on.

“I had my encounter with a majestic buzzard on a cold and beautiful winter day. I had seconds to react once I spotted it, and just as my focus locked on, it spotted me and flew directly across my path. So close to me. I chose the first image of the sequence because it had the most amount of action and sense of place. It is by far and away the best shot of a buzzard I have ever managed. They have eluded me for years. I’m quite stunned and delighted to have won.”

Flora and fauna Winner (and overall winner) – Ray McDonald (buzzard in flight) taken at College Lake
Flora and fauna Runner Up – Adrianna Bielobradek (Poppy seedhead) taken at Buckleberry Common)

As overall winner, Mr McDonald won a top-of-the-range Panasonic Lumix digital camera and a wildlife photography masterclass. As well as receiving a printed canvas of his picture and having it appear in BBOWT’s 2023 calendar.

This year’s contest had six new categories: flora and fauna; nature reserve landscapes; people in nature; children’s category (ages 6-12), teenagers (ages 13-19) and Team Wilder, for shots of action for nature in the community. Helen Touchard-Paxton, a mum who lives Buckinghamshire, won the Team Wilder category with a snap of a frog in a garden pond that she and her family dug during the coronavirus lockdown.

She said: “I believe this photo shows that you don’t need acres of land to create a successful wildlife area: if you are interested – no matter how small your space – just have a go and see what works. I don’t have high-end expensive equipment, and I have no idea how to use photo editing software – the photo is very much ‘as taken’. I was absolutely amazed to have won the Team Wilder category.”

Team Wilder Winner – Helen Touchard-Paxton (frog)
Team Wilder Runner Up – Peter Massam (bug hotel)

The Trust received hundreds of entries, creating an extremely difficult job for this year’s judges. BBOWT communications officer Kate Titford, Trust magazine editor Ben Vanheems and professional photographer Steve Gozdz, who runs local nature safaris in Berkshire through his business GG Wildlife Experiences.

Teenagers Winner – Zachary Osbourne (14) Kingfisher
Teenagers Runner Up – Lucy Colston (17) (marbled white on scabious)

Mr Vanheems said: “It’s been a really laborious process with lots of debate going on because we want to get it right, but the competition entrants haven’t exactly made it easy for us.”

People in Nature Winner – Petra Mohr (girl on decking) taken at Weston Turville Reservior
People in Nature Runner Up – Lorraine Clarke (man in hide) taken at College Lake

Mr Gozdz added: “What I was looking for was composition, good use of light – an action shot would have been fantastic. What we’ve found is something quite stunning. A real in-the-moment shot with perfect angles and perfect light, and actually something I would have been very happy to have taken myself. In fact, when I first saw it I was quite jealous.”

Landscape Winner – Charlotte Day (sunrise landscape) taken at Cholsey Marsh
Landscape Runner Up – John Kearns (Warburg trees) taken at Warburg
The trust is grateful to GG Wildlife Experiences, Panasonic and Chroma for sponsoring this year’s competition.

St Bartholomew’s: ‘Outstanding’ in all areas

Round & About

Berkshire

High praise for Sixth Form as it prepares to welcome more students to join

At this time, many Year 11 students will be looking forward to Sixth Form and to the greater subject choice, independence and challenge this affords. St Bartholomew’s School, Newbury, has long attracted students from a wide area due to its well-established reputation for successful outcomes.

This application year, however, there will be particular excitement in the air for those joining the Sixth Form following the announcement that it was rated outstanding by Ofsted as part of an overall outstanding judgement for the school.

Ofsted inspectors praised ‘the rich variety of post 16 subjects on offer’ commenting that ‘Sixth Form students show real determination in their learning through focused study’ and are ‘well-prepared to continue their education on to university or to enter the world of work’.

Head of Sixth Form, Mr Cleary, said: “We are delighted with this result. Our Sixth Form prides itself on delivering outstanding academic and pastoral support. We take very seriously our responsibility to prepare students for their future, whether this is in higher education, apprenticeships or employment. I was particularly pleased that Ofsted picked up on the importance we place on our careers programme and the opportunities that students have to take on leadership roles.”

Staff and students joined in celebration in the school’s striking central Hub as it was judged to be outstanding in every category: Quality of education; Behaviour and attitudes; Personal development; Leadership and management and Sixth Form. St Bart’s is understood to be only the second non-selective secondary school in the country to receive an outstanding Ofsted Section 5 inspection in all categories this academic year.

On the Ofsted report, Headteacher Ms Mortimore says: “This is a result that reflects the very many strengths of our school, and one of which our school community and local area can be truly proud. At St Bart’s we always aspire to achieve the best in everything we do, and it is fantastic to gain recognition of this.”

Visit www.stbarts.co.uk for more information on Sixth Form applications.

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