Help train life-changing hearing dogs

Karen Neville

buckinghamshire

Hearing Dogs for Deaf People trains clever dogs to alert deaf people to important and life-saving sounds, including smoke alarms, intruder alarms, oven timers, alarm clocks and even baby monitors.

Its dogs also provide constant emotional support and companionship – helping deaf people to leave loneliness behind.

Deafness is on the rise in the UK; by 2035, it is estimated that one in five British people (over 15 million) will experience hearing loss, and the increase the charity is seeing in the number of people coming to it for help, reflects this.

The charity receives no government funding but is very fortunate to have the support of a network of committed volunteers.

There are two types of volunteer roles the charity urgently needs to fill: permanent puppy trainers, who will look after a puppy for the duration of its training (usually between 18 months and two years), and short-term trainers to cover times when other trainers are on holiday.

Linda Foster, who lives near High Wycombe, became a volunteer puppy trainer last year after retiring from her job as a personal assistant at an architectural practice.

“I started off by doing short-term cover when the other puppy trainers were on holiday. I also went along to puppy training sessions at The Grange, Hearing Dogs’ southern training centre. Then in April, I started looking after Lola, a gorgeous 13-month-old black Labrador puppy, on a long-term basis.  

“I’d actually never had a dog before, so it was quite a steep learning curve, but I had a lot of help from the charity’s trainers, and advice from other volunteers.  The whole experience has been very rewarding, and I’ve met some lovely people (and dogs) over the last year.”

Without volunteers like Linda, the charity would not be able to help anywhere near as many people with hearing loss reconnect with life.

Sixteen-year-old Zach Allen, from Chalfont St Peter, was diagnosed as deaf when he was just three years old. His mum Kirsty said: “Although we got support for Zach to attend a mainstream school, he still had challenges. He didn’t play along with other children’s games in case he misheard the rules and got them wrong. I saw him lose confidence as he got older. He was overlooked for games. He wasn’t invited to birthday parties. It was a very difficult thing for a parent to see.


“Then, when Zach was eight years old, everything changed because Echo the hearing dog came into our lives. Soon after Echo arrived, we took him into school so that Zach’s year group could meet him. As a teacher was about to tell the school about him, Zach stood up instead, and introduced Echo to everyone. He explained how Echo alerts him to sounds by nudging him with his nose. We all stood there open-mouthed at this confident child who had appeared from nowhere.”


Victoria Leedham, Head of Volunteering at Hearing Dogs for Deaf People, said: “Our dogs do so much to help deaf people – from alerting them to life-saving sounds, to providing emotional support and making sure they never feel alone – and the hard work put in by our wonderful volunteers is absolutely integral to that.

“Anyone who volunteers for us can expect to feel like part of our family. No previous experience is necessary, and volunteers will receive lots of support and training to ensure they feel fully equipped to care for one of our dogs.

“The charity will also cover all costs involved, from the moment the volunteer takes the puppy home, to when it is handed over to one of our deaf partners after its training is complete”, she added.

“These roles would be perfect for local dog lovers living in a home with a secure garden, and plenty of time to spare every day. We can really only consider applications from working people if they work just a few hours from home each week.”

Anyone interested in finding out more about volunteering for Hearing Dogs for Deaf People can visit www.hearingdogs.org.uk/volunteer. The volunteering team can be reached directly at [email protected] or on 01844 348129.

Noel Gallagher Q&A ahead of PennFest

Liz Nicholls

buckinghamshire

Rock music legend & dad Noel Gallagher, 55, shares his thoughts ahead of his star turn at PennFest in Buckinghamshire on 21st & 22nd July

Q. Hello! You must be excited about playing songs from the new album Council Skies at PennFest. Any songs standing out as potential live favourites?

“Well, I haven’t started rehearsing yet! I’d be amazed if Easy Now and Pretty Boy aren’t great live but, as of yet, we just don’t know.”

Q. “Johnny Marr will be on stage just before you at PennFest. You’ve collaborated previously many times and he also plays on your new album. What was it about The Smiths you particularly loved? And how does Johnny continue to inspire you?

“Like all the great bands they had an undefinable thing. Yes, the tunes were undeniably great – and they were amazing live – but there was ‘something’ else. As for what that ‘something’ was? I still don’t know.”

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Shooting stars in wildlife photo competition

Round & About

buckinghamshire

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.

Chilterns Walking Festival October highlights

Liz Nicholls

buckinghamshire

Enjoy walk, foraging, local & literary history, cream tea, garden tours and more as part of Chilterns Walking Festival, 15th-30th October.

The tenth Chilterns Walking Festival features a programme of more than 50 walks and local events to help you enjoy the autumn splendour, the golden beech trees and hedgerows bursting with colour.

Highlights include Pipsticks walks on the day before All Hallows Eve for a spooky walk along the River Thames and lots of ghostly tales from the riverbank! Or take a Walk on the Dark Side with an exhilarating stroll through Bones Wood and Crowsley Park, tuning into the sounds and sights of the night, and ending at the pub for hot chocolate.

50 walks and local events to help you enjoy the autumn splendour

There’s also a foraging walk among the magnificent sweet chestnut trees to learn about and enjoy the bountiful autumn fruits of the forest. Literary walk discovering” in south Oxfordshire including the house where he once lived.

Discover and walk some of the ancient routes which criss-cross the Chilterns, exploring Drovers routes and the Slow Ways historic routes. There’s a nature walk at Aston Rowant to celebrate the 70th anniversary of National Nature Reserves. Join the rangers to see the wildlife that makes them so special, finishing with tea & cake.

Tour guide Bobbie Latter will take you on a guided walk around historic Marlow, followed by a hands-on lace-making experience and a delicious afternoon tea. Plus there are map reading courses, pub walks, local produce tasting, historic garden tours and much more.

Find out more

For full info please visit visitchilterns.co.uk/walkingfest

Louis Likes… The Crazy Bear Stadhampton

Round & About

buckinghamshire

In the first in a series of dining out reviews, ten-year-old Louis Savage samples the hospitality on offer at The Crazy Bear in Stadhampton.

My driver and I arrived at The Crazy Bear and it was busy. Outside were two bears and the reception was a London bus. We decided on the Thai menu which meant we had to eat inside. This was a shame we couldn’t eat in their extraordinary gardens.

A waiter took us downstairs where there were mirrors on the ceiling. We were seated in the corner of the restaurant on a table with a sofa as my chair, which I thought was cool. We had some Thai prawn crackers to start with which had plenty of spice.

There weren’t loads of drink choices for kids, but there was Coke, lemonade and apple and orange juice. But my driver had a beer and he said there were lots of choices for wines, champagnes and beers.

For starters, we shared some Cotswold chicken satay. My driver had some crispy rice paper and duck spring rolls. I ordered some crispy salt and pepper king prawns which turned out to be very very crispy!

For mains, I had a dim sum – this type of dough which is wrapped around lots of things such as prawn, pork, prawns and pork and fish. My driver had some chargrilled lamb cutlets that were super nice (a bit better than my dim sum to be honest) as well as some egg fried rice.

For dessert my knickerbocker glory had delicious strawberries on super-smooth whipped cream, then more strawberries in a delicious puree with strawberry ice cream under it and then vanilla ice cream.

Food: 6.5/10 Style: 9/10

Find out more