Green dream

Liz Nicholls

community

The Green Hub in Milford, which has just had its first birthday, offers a vital support space for teenagers struggling with their mental health

Just one year ago you‘d find the Green Hub Project for Teens on Facebook looking for local folk to join a DIY SOS-style weekend, to transform their tranquil garden in Milford. This month the garden celebrates its first birthday.

Over its first year Green Hub Project for Teens has transformed from an idea in its embryonic stage into a confident adolescent.

The garden is the vision of local chiropractor Tone Tellefsen Hughes. “I’ve seen so much trauma through my clinic in recent years,” she says. “But since Covid, it’s become unimaginably bad, so many young people experiencing a tough time – it’s heart-breaking. This is why we are reaching out to families with teens struggling with low to moderate social anxiety, stress and overwhelm.”

Tone’s co-chair, local business coach Vanessa Lanham-Day, has been instrumental in creating the momentum behind the project. “The garden and teen volunteering is such a simple concept – it’s all about providing time out in nature and calm.

But, for the teens to benefit from time spent in the garden, there has been a whole machine that needed to be created. We have been busy spreading the word as well as building relationships with GPs, schools and youth organisations – but the most passionate requests come from parents themselves.

Teens spend up to 12 weeks becoming garden volunteers, under the guidance of adult leaders – there are morning and afternoon sessions (all free) each Saturday for up to eight teens. The process isn’t “therapy” problems aren’t discussed, and no advice is given – but the process is undoubtedly therapeutic.

Tone adds: “Science shows that being in nature allows the brain to calm down and settle a little, like a busy snow globe when the snow falls. When you immerse yourself in an activity – especially in nature – your brain is unable to do anything else and this gives the busy teenage brain a chance to rest and make sense of what’s been going on in their world. There are long term benefits after a garden session, as well as finding a connection which has been so sorely missed since the pandemic for so many.”

Tone and Vanessa would also like to find other garden spaces to extend the programme.

Parents who want to refer a teen to the project should visit greenhub.org.uk/parent-refer

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Volunteers help maintain Betjeman Millennium Park

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James Kent, a year 12 pupil at King Alfred’s, spends a day with the army of volunteers who help maintain the Betjeman Millennium Park in Wantage, which has just marked its 20th anniversary

Just a stone’s throw from the hustle and bustle of Wantage Marketplace is a haven of wildlife, poetry, and relaxation – the Betjeman Millennium Park.

This month, the park enters its 20th year of providing for the local community but why is the park here in the first place? How was the land transformed from an empty derelict wasteland to the vibrant hub it is today? And why is it still so important?

You could be mistaken for wandering down from the parish church or along by the mill and assuming the wild plot of land on the outskirts of Wantage is just a normal park or nature reserve, but this is far from the truth…

You can feel a sense of magic and myth as you wander around the trails

Named after local poet and former poet laureate Sir John Betjeman (who lived in Wantage 1951-72) and dedicated to the start of the new millennium, the park is certainly not your ordinary piece of flat and neatly squared out urban greenery.

Being host to semi-wild woodland, engraved sculptures, a circle of ancient sarsen stones (the same as in Stonehenge) and even a performance area this is less of a park and more of a centre of life. You can feel a sense of magic and myth as you wander around the trails and get lost within the sprawling trees and running rhythms of word.

The freedom and wonder are infectious and not exclusive to humans – wildflowers pop up and enthusiastically cover the ground all around and birds call out from their leafy abodes.

In most places it is us or nature. Houses, pavements, fences keeping us tucked away from wildlife like it’s our enemy, the unkempt sprawling mass that we can’t control. However, here it is (to an extent) beautifully uncontrolled and thriving and a poignant reminder that we can all be here and coexist happily.

To many (myself included) it seems like Betjeman Park has always been there – a permanent feature of Wantage – but, as I’ve learnt, the fight for this park has been hard, the upkeep crucial but most importantly the transformation incredible. The two-acre site of land on which the park lies was once a piece of derelict wasteland that was close to being developed on with property.

Seeing the opportunity for protecting wildlife and how devastating it would be to see this land become swallowed up by more infrastructure, a local group came together to make a charitable trust. Through hard work, they saved the land and bought the plot with help from a council grant in the mid-1990s.

Chelsea Flower Show gold medalist Gabriella Pape was commissioned to design the space and came up with the idea of planting native tree species to increase biodiversity.

Local sculptor and artist Alec Peever was then chosen to engrave and install six sculptures to immortalise Sir John Betjeman’s words and poetry in stone which now make up the poetry trail. Finally, in May 2002 (after seven years of dedication) the ribbon was cut and the park opened to the jazzy sounds of The Wantage Silver Band.

It’s just so lovely to have this place in the centre of town

Today, the park is as relevant as ever in the local community and holds annual events like Art in the Park and the Betjeman Bike Ride and is used by many schools, cub groups and brownies for both education and adventure. It is also loved by locals (young and old) as a calm and relaxing sanctuary which transports you far away from the humdrum of the town.

One local resident told me it’s “just so lovely to have this place in the centre of town” and “it’s a wonderful asset” which has bloomed out of the “rough, unloved ground” she once remembers.

The Park has also been especially helpful to locals during the lockdowns as it provided many with the opportunity to get out of the house and spend some time in nature during those precious windows of exercise.

The essential role it plays in the community has also been acknowledged as it is now recognised as a Local Green Space in the draft Wantage Neighbourhood Plan, which protects it from all future development.

As a park for both people and nature to coexist happily, the upkeep is essential and many dedicated local volunteers help out at monthly work parties. I went down to see what was going on at the April work party and met some of the volunteers and trustees.

From the moment I joined them during their well earnt tea break I could really feel the deep sense of unity between them and the nature they care for. One enthusiastic volunteer, who has been involved for eight years and is one of the current trustees, told me how as a child she had quite self-sufficient parents and grew up “in the middle of nowhere” so it’s quite “a revelation to be in such a community”.

However, it’s not always a walk in the park (!) as she tells me it can be challenging to juggle her job and other responsibilities with the time needed as a trustee but there is such a great “feeling of achievement” and so much social connection.

Not only do those working inside the park’s perimeters feel the connection but I was told how often passersby stop to say how much they appreciate the work being done on the park and how much the park means to them which is “reason enough to do it” for lots of them.

One elderly lady, although unable to do any physical work, regularly pops by to bring home-made biscuits for all the hard workers- not only is the park there for the community to enjoy but also for the community to care for in all the different ways they can.

Not only is the park there for the community to enjoy but also for the community to care for

One student volunteer who got involved just about nine months ago originally to be part of his Duke Of Edinburgh award is now the park’s youngest ever trustee and has spent six months on an ambitious project identifying and mapping out all the trees in the park alongside one of the more experienced and knowledgeable volunteers.

He tells me the yew tree is his favourite in the park with its reddish and purple bark and evergreen spines and how they are very slow to grow but can live for thousands of years. What I really came away feeling like at the end of the work party was that this is no begrudging task or tedious responsibility for those involved but really a great pleasure.

As the chairman John Vandore said it is a real “privilege” to be able to ensure the survival of the magical space the original founding trustees fought so hard to gain.

To find out more about Betjeman Millenium Park or get in touch check out the Facebook page

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Poignant performance from St George’s School

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Community concert raises £3,000 for DEC Ukraine Appeal

A community concert, organised by local preparatory school St George’s School Windsor Castle and hosted by Windsor Parish Church, raised over £3,000 for the Disasters Emergency Committee Ukraine Appeal.

Beginning with a champagne and canapé reception, more than 100 parents and members of the local community took their sets for the event on April 28th and enjoyed a stirring rendition of Fauré’s Requiem.

Led by the school’s director of music, James Wilkinson, the 40-minute piece of work was performed by the St George’s School Chamber Choir, accompanied by an ensemble of professional musicians. Four of the senior choristers of St George’s Chapel Windsor Castle, all Year 8 students at the school, joined the stage for the spine-tingling Pie Jesu.

“It was an exceptional and highly poignant performance, perfect for the occasion,” commented William Goldsmith, head of St George’s School Windsor Castle. “As a school with the values of kindness, honesty and courage, we felt rightly compelled to use some of the breadth of talent that exists across the school to support the plight of the people of Ukraine in a positive and meaningful way.”

The money raised, through advance ticket sales and donations on the night, will be given to the Disasters Emergency Committee Ukraine Humanitarian Appeal to help provide food, water, shelter, healthcare and protection for families fleeing conflict in the country.

“We are extremely grateful for all of the generous donations from those who attended, the musicians and performers for donating their time and the support from the school’s parent body and wider community to enable the event to go ahead,” added Goldsmith.

Windsor Parish Church, Brill Media, Run Print Run and Luxe Flowers were among those to support the event.

Further information about St George’s School Windsor Castle can be found at www.stgwindsor.org, or by attending the school’s upcoming open event on Saturday 21 May. Interested families are invited to register for the event via the website or by calling 01753 865553

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Festival fun for all

Liz Nicholls

community

Festivals are back on! Yes, after two fretful years of disrupted fun & frolics, there’s a summer sizzler of festivals ready to rock your world, whatever you’re into… writes Liz Nicholls

Close your eyes and imagine you’re in your happy place… Maybe you and your tots are wafting amid rainbow bubbles, singing along to Justin Fletcher, deluxe doughnut in hand? Are you waiting for the bass to drop beneath the strobe lights as the stage is set for Pete Tong or Orbital? Supping a craft ale getting crafty on your village green? Getting grimy at Reading..? We all have different ideas of a good time.

Whatever your jam, there’s a festival for you.

The excitement among musicians, as well as everyone involved in the festival scene, is palpable

Ronan Keating, who stars at this year’s Cornbury, tells us: “It’s just great to be back on stage with my band again. After the last couple of years I think everyone feels a huge sigh of relief that we can all get back together again to do something we truly love. I was due to perform at Cornbury in 2020 but understandably everything had to be moved. It’s a great line-up with Bryan Adams, James Blunt and then me on the Sunday. I was lucky to be able to release two albums during the pandemic, Twenty Twenty and Songs From Home.

“It will be great to be back on stage and play some of the new tracks along with all the hits from my solo years as well as a few of the great Boyzone hits that everyone loves. I’m still loving being live on Magic Radio every week day morning, along with Harriet Scott, and you’ll still be able to see me each week on the sofa co-hosting The  One Show. I feel very lucky to be in people’s homes across the UK each day on TV and radio but finally  being back on stage is the thing that’s making this year so special.”

Kaleidoscope – credit Lloyd Winters

So, here’s a round-up of the big & small gems which are all set to dazzle between now & the end of summer…

The Investec International Music Festival celebrates composer Ralph Vaughan Williams’ 150th birthday and strong local connections with world-class concerts, walks and talks across the Surrey Hills, 5th-14th May. Featuring Sitkovetsky Trio at Charterhouse in Godalming, Modigliani Quartet & cellist Gary Hoffman with Wu Qian at Cobham’s Menuhin Hall, and clarinettist Michael Collins with an all-star chamber ensemble at RHS Garden Wisley. Please visit iimf.co.uk

Cookham Festival in Bucks is a celebration of the arts by the village for the village, 6th to 22nd May. You can enjoy music, spoken word, workshops, kids’ fun, sculpture & more; visit cookhamfestival.co.uk

Are You Listening? Alfie Templeman, Pip Blom, Pixey & dozens more will rock Reading in aid of Mencap on 7th May; areyoulistening.org.uk. And there are classical delights aplenty at Newbury Spring Festival, 7th-21st May; newburyspringfestival.org.uk

Join beloved local legend Tom Kerridge & his foodie friends for Pub In The Park Marlow, 12th-15th May, for Rag’n’Bone Man, Sister Sledge, Sophie Ellis-Bextor & lots more talent; pubintheparkuk.com. And if you love the 1980s, Let’s Rock the Moor in Cookham on 21st May offers Wet Wet Wet, Squeeze, The Selecter, Jason Donovan, Sonique & more; letsrockthemoor.com

Family & planet-friendly WOOD returns to Ipsden near Wallingford, 20th-22nd May; woodfestival.com

Amesbury Arts Festival has two performances open to the public: Scouting for Girls, Indie-pop, 25th May, 7.30pm, and live stand-up comedy from Iain Stirling on 26th May, 7.30pm. Both be held in the school’s magnificent grounds in Hindhead. But tickets via EventBrite, visit amesburyschool.co.uk/artsfestival2022

Celebrate Britain’s rich musical heritage

The 15th English Music Festival at Dorchester Abbey, 27th-29th May, stars Coleridge-Taylor’s Violin Concerto, Holst’s The Cloud Messenger, Vaughan Williams’s Willow Wood sung by Roderick Williams; a song showcase by Havergal Brian; and A Garland for the Queen, commissioned specially for the Jubilee. englishmusicfestival.org.uk

“Probably the finest free music and beer festival in the world…” Rokefest will rock The Home Sweet Home in the glorious Oxfordshire countryside, 27th-29th May, starring Bottle Kids, The Skandal, the MFU & more, all for great causes; rokefest.com

Among the many festivals DJ Yoda, AKA Duncan Beiny, will perform at this year is the fabulous Great Estate in Cornwall, 2nd-5th June which also stars Manic Street Preachers, Electric Six, The Sugarhill Gang and more; greatestatefestival.co.uk. The turntablist is looking forward to this summer…. “Oh god I’m champing at the bit!” he says. “If anything I feel a bit nervous about it.  I’m even seriously getting myself in physical shape for it with diet and exercise. The pandemic ruled travel out for ages which was grim for me; I’m looking forward to getting to New York, Austria, Portugal, Ireland. Kaleidoscope festival at Ally Pally is near where I grew up so I’ll see a lot of old friends, that will be really special for me. Musically there’s Mostly Jazz in Birmingham [8th-10th July; mostlyjazz.co.uk]. Standon Calling [Hertfordshire, 21st-24th July; standon-calling.com] is always good, Y Not? is always good… [Derbyshire, 29th-31st July; ynotfestival.com]. It’s going to be week-in, week-out party times. As a DJ I’m constantly checking out new artists. My favourite rappers at the moment are Roc Marciano and Your Old Droog and I really rate the singer Grace Lightman. I love seeing other acts at festivals so this quest lives in my head very much, I can’t wait!”

Jubilee joy awaits at Shynefest at Merrist Wood College in Worplesdon, on 3rd & 4th June. The Lightning Seeds top the live music bill & you’ll find bucketloads of family-friendly fun such as escape room games & animal encounters, food, plus there are camping & glamping options; shynefest.uk

Enjoy a folk, doo-wop & jive weekend at the Fleur De Lys in East Hagbourne near Didcot, 3rd-5th June; thefleurdelyspub.co.uk

And Wychwood Festival will rock Cheltenham racecourse, 3rd-5th June, with Sophie Ellis-Bextor, Levellers, Boney M, comedy, a kids’ lit fest, headphone disco & idyllic camping beneath the Prestbury Hills; wychwoodfestival.com

Hampton Court Palace Festival offers legends including Elbow, George Benson, Jack Savoretti, Ministry of Sound classical mash-ups, The Human League, Crowded House, Michael Ball & Alfie Boe, 8th-16th June. With Fortnum & Mason picnics & bouji hospitality packages, this is a classy affair… hamptoncourtpalacefestival.com for all you need to know.

Richard Dawkins (on defying gravity), Delia Smith, Jarvis Cocker, David Miliband, William Dalrymple & David Olusoga are some of the mind-expanding stars at KITE, a new festival of ideas & music in Kirtlington, near Oxford, 10th-12th June, with Grace Jones, no less, topping the music bill! kitefestival.co.uk

All hail the return of The Isle of Wight Festival!

The iconic shindig just over the Solent stars Lewis Capaldi, Madness, Nile & Chic, Kasabian, Pete Tong, Muse & more, 16th-19th June. isleofwightfestival.com

Blenheim Palace is the superb backdrop for the Nocturne Live performances from the likes of David Gray, Lionel Richie, Simply Red, Simple Minds & UB40 starring Ali Astro, 16th-19th June; nocturnelive.com

Beacon Festival returns to raise funds and spirits in Watlington on 17th & 18th June, with a Queen tribute, Noble Jack, Kioko, Fontana, SkaSouls UK, Chic to Chic and lots more across four stages. Over the last decade the eco-friendly festival with a free shuttle bus & camping has raised more than £25,500 for local charities; beaconfestival.net

We can’t not mention Glastonbury in a festivals special… If you’re lucky enough to have bagged a golden ticket, at the end of June, you can enjoy Paul McCartney, Billie Eilish, Diana Ross and legions more… If not, watch from the sofa!

Fancy a little opera? After wowing thousands since 2018, Scherzo Ensemble return to Longhope Opera in Newton Valence, near Alton, 2nd & Sunday, 3rd July, to perform L’elisir d’Amore by Donizetti. longhopesummeropera.com

A$AP Rocky & Tyler, the Creator star at Wireless Crystal Palace, 1st to 3rd July and Cardi B & Nicki Minaj at Finsbury Park (8th-10th July); wirelessfestival.co.uk. And BST Hyde Park is the glorious setting, 24th June to 10th July, for Pearl Jam, Robert Plant, Pixies, Stereophonics, Rolling Stones & more, bst-hydepark.com

Haslemere Fringe Festival, 1st-3rd July, has music, comedy, dance and more, 1st to 3rd July. Sleeper, Sophie Ellis-Bextor & The Feeling will star, along with so many more stars, at this community highlight with heart; haslemerefringe.co.uk

A trip to Devon is always a mood-booster

Powderham Castle near Exeter is the suitably stunning setting, on Sunday, 3rd July, for A Perfect Day. The line-up will include our former cover star & crush David Gray performing his White Ladder 20th anniversary Show, James Morrison, Tom Odell, Gabrielle, The Shires & Wildwood Kin; aperfectdayfestival.com

Morcheeba, Sugar Hill Gang, Badly Drawn Boy, DJ Format & many more will dazzle at Readipop in Caversham, 8th-10th July. Established in 1998, party while helping vulnerable young people and older folk, as well as aspiring artists; readipop.co.uk

Hugh Phillimore has confirmed that it’s officially the final Cornbury (sniff) at The Great Tew Park, 8th-10th July. And it’s a fittingly great line-up starring Bryan Adams, James Blunt, the aforementioned Ronan Keating, The Darkness, The Magic Numbers & many more; cornburyfestival.com

And if you’ve got a ticket to sold-out “Godfather of the small festival scene,” Truck in Steventon enjoy Sam Fender, Blossoms, Kelis, Black Honey & more; see truckfestival.com for resales.

Pete Tong, Craig David, Katherine Jenkins, Jack Savoretti & Tom Jones are among the legends at the smart riverside Henley Festival 6th-10th July; henley-festival.co.uk. Get your glad rags on!

Henley Festival

Our very witty cover star James Blunt will star, alongside Cameo, the Specials, Human League & more at the stunning Rochester Castle Concerts in Kent 6th-9th July; rochestercastleconcerts.com

Reef, The Hoosiers, the Leylines & Dodgy will star at Fi.Fest in Maidenhead on 9th July; fifest.co.uk. And arrive thristy for Twyford Beer Festival, which is alweays fun, and raises money for male cancer charity Orchid, 10th & 11th July; twyfordbeerfest.co.uk

On 16th July head to Newbury to enjoy Weatherby’s Super Sprint Day & Party in the Paddock with the one and only Craig David; newburyracecourse.co.uk

Set within the stunning Henham Park in Suffolk, let your curiosity guide you at Latitude, 21st to 24th July. This East Anglian wonderland offers great music, dance, comedy, poetry, theatre, literature, family fun and wellness such as wild swimming and paddleboarding. This year’s line-up includes Foals, Groove Armada, Fontaines DC & many more; latitudefestival.com

Pennfest near Beaconsfield is one of our favourites here at Round & About Towers The funfest on 22nd & 23rd July has another banging line-up to rev up the Bucks countryside, including Clean Bandit, Sugar Hill Gang, Rudimental, Grandmaster Flash, Shola Ama, The Hoosiers & more; pennfest.net.

Enter our competition to win Pennfest tickets!

Kaleidoscope lands at Alexandra Palace on Saturday, 23rd July, with Orbital, Happy Mondays, Dom Joly, a circus, theatre & more… And Patty Smith will star, alongside Nadine Shah, at Higher Ground, also at Ally Pally on 24th July; higherground.london

Beloved Berkshire beauty Marvellous will offer mighty more tribute acts & fun, 23rd & 24th July in Hurst; marvellousfestivals.com.

WOMAD letters – credit Brenna Duncan

WOMAD, the World of Music, Arts and Dance Music festival, returns to delight Charlton Park near Marlborough, 28th-31st July. Kae Tempest, A Certain Ratio, The Dhol Foundation, Greentea Peng & Nitin Sawhney will star; womad.co.uk

Curated by Josie & Rob Da Bank, Camp Bestival at Dorset’s Lulworth Castle. This year’s line-up includes Rag ‘n’Bone Man, Rudimental, Earth, WInd & Fire, Example, a DJ set from Faithless, Mr Tumble, spas, workshop, and lots of family fun, 28th-31st July; dorset.campbestival.net

Cornbury Park is the wondrous setting for the thrilling Wilderness Festival, 4th-7th August. Wellbeing, theatre, thought-provoking workshops and more will keep you stimulated, and Underworld, Years & Years and Roisin Murphy are some of the gems on the musical line-up; wildernessfestival.com

The brilliantly bonkers Boomtown Fair team are building the Main City for a revitalised living theatre festival on the theme of The Gathering, 10th-14th August in Hampshire’s Matterley Estate, boomtownfair.co.uk

Enjoy wings, wheels and steam with your bands with Retrofestival in Newbury, 12th-14th August; retrofestival.co.uk

Billy Ocean, Cast, Del Amitri, Stereo MCs & The Christians will star at Weyfest, the boutique festival held in Tilford near Farnham since 2007. This year’s family-friendly highlight 19th-21st August will rock The Rural Life Museum, with dancing Daleks, Laserquest, “posh loos” & great food; weyfest.co.uk

Stowaway Festival

Another Bucks beauty, Stowaway near Buckingham will star Orbital, a DJ set from Quantic, Norman Jay, Erol Alkan, The Staves, Roni Size & more, 19th-21st August; stowawayfestival.co.uk.

Enter our competition to win Stowaway tickets!

And Rewind South in Henley 19th-21st August will star Holly Johnson, Kim Wilde, The Human League and Pat Sharp; south.rewindfestival.com

Reading (& Leeds) is back to rock the August bank holiday. Arctic Monkeys, Dave, Rage Against The Machine, Megan Thee Stallion, Joy Crookes, Run the Jewels, Griff, Pale Waves & Wolf Alice star; readingfestival.com/tickets

Still rocking near Thame after 58 fun-filled years, Towersey Festival brings you comedy, music & fun, 26th-29th August; towerseyfestival.com

Love cars, love music? Then you’ll love cinch presents CarFest, the family music & motoring festival founded by Chris Evans in 2011, that raises fun levels and funds for children’s charities. Catch Paloma Faith, Rag’n’Bone Man, Kaiser Chiefs, Steps & so many more at Laverstoke Park, 26th-28th August, carfest.org

Finally, 2nd-4th September, community favourite Bunkfest in Wallingford will serve up its beloved brew of music, dance & beer; bunkfest.co.uk

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Beacon Hill Beer Festival is back!

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After two years the popular beer festival returns to Hindhead Royal British Legion Club with an amazing array of beers for you to enjoy

Get a head start on the Platinum Jubilee celebrations by sampling a selection of beers themed around the occasion, as well as a selection of British ciders, and a handful of international lagers as part of the Beacon Hill Beer Festival.

On Friday 13th May from 5pm we will be open to everyone to kick off the celebrations with live music from The Bierkeller Boys, a Bavarian Oompah band who are ready to get everyone on their feet with plenty of clapping, swaying and thigh slapping.

Saturday 14th won’t be any less exciting! Organizers say: “We open at 1pm for an afternoon of beer, lager and cider tasting. Shortly followed by what is sure to be a fiery FA Cup Final with Liverpool vs Chelsea on our big screen, with Liverpool aiming to become the first English team to win the quadruple, so we are sure to be in for an exciting game before we get right into the evening. There will be live music from The Noize to get us up on that dance floor for the night.”

An incredible weekend awaits at Hindhead Royal British Legion, Beacon Hill Road, Hindhead, GU26 6QB with a variety of breweries already lined up to take part:

Breweries:

Brolly Brewery

Crafty Brewery

Greene King

Longdog Brewery

Siren Craft Brewery

Surrey Hills Brewery

TripleFFF

Windsor & Eton Brewery

Elusive Brewery

Flack Brewery

Ciders supplied by:

Hogs Back Brewery

Mr Whiteheads Cider Co

Lagers from around the world:

Kirin (Japan); Pacifico Clara (Mexico); Moosehead (Canada); Sagres Export (Portugal), and Tusker (Kenya).

Join Beacon Hill Beer Festival on Facebook and Twitter

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Convoy Community

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Convoy Community is dedicated to taking loneliness out of job hunting and can help with the fully funded spaces available on their The Road to Work programme.

With 30 spaces open in Thames Valley (Berkshire) Convoy Communities, they are particularly looking to reach out and support people who are feeling isolated, suffering with their mental health, or struggling with their job hunt. Whether you’ve been unemployed for a little while, have recently been made redundant, or you’re trying to break into the workforce for the first time, they’re here to help.
Convoy says: “We know that the market is tough at the moment. It can be challenging to find a new job at the best of times, but during a global pandemic? Not having to go this journey alone can make a big difference.”

Enter Convoy Community

Convoy takes loneliness out of the job search and harnesses the power of communities to support each other. By helping maintain motivation, momentum, and mental health, the Convoy Community helps turn seekers into finders.

The Convoy Model

Built and developed from lived experience, there are a few components to the Convoy Model that create the space for accountability, hope and reassurance, and inspiration and motivation. It’s the combination of them together that makes the magic.

The daily stand-up – creating accountability

This is the magic ingredient in Convoy. A daily 5-minute meeting that creates the space for accountability, which is key to maintaining momentum and motivation. Members are grouped into accountability groups of three; meeting every weekday, they take 1-2 minutes each to share how their job search is going, answering two questions:

• What did you do yesterday to support your job search?
• What will you do today to help your job search?

Weekly review – boosting hope and providing reassurance

Once a week, Convoy members meet virtually for 40-60 mins to review the week. Job coaches lead these sessions and create space for hope and reassurance to flourish.

Because everyone is sharing their wins and losses, they realise they’re not alone in getting rejected for roles, sharing the “It’s not just me!” feeling. Plus, they get reassurance from hearing others ’wins’ and experience that “It could be me!” feeling.

Weekly guest speakers – providing inspiration, education, and motivation

Once a week, all members of Convoy are invited to a Guest Speaker session on various topics. We’ve had discussions on blockchain, breaking through what holds us back and psychometric testing. We may also discuss practical skills, like making your LinkedIn profile stand out, or creating better cover letters.

In addition, these sessions are also an opportunity to connect with the broader Convoy Community and build on their networks. Research has shown that 80% of roles aren’t filled by direct applications but through networks and connections.

Why was the Convoy Community created?

Convoy’s founder, Christopher Ross, created the Convoy Community out of his own job-hunting experience. After being made redundant from his role at the start of the pandemic in March 2020, Christopher found the search for a job isolating. He found the outplacement support helpful, but felt more was needed to bring balance and structure to the job of searching for his next job.

So, drawing on elements from Agile ways of working and project management techniques, he created the support for job seekers he felt he was missing. From here, the Convoy Community has grown, and over the last 18 months, has connected with over 350 people, supporting them with their job hunt, creation of their own businesses or settling into a new role.

How to connect and secure your space

Whether you need support, or someone you know does, Convoy is a community of people travelling in the same direction. Whatever stage you are in your career, Convoy can support you in your job hunt goals, connecting you with a like-minded community all going through the same challenges as you.

If you’d like to know more about Convoy Community, please check out the website convoycommunity.com. And to register your interest in a place, please complete the form: convoycommunity.com/trtweoi
If you have any questions, you can drop us an email here:

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St Bartholomew’s: ‘Outstanding’ in all areas

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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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Mental Health Mates are offering support

Liz Nicholls

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Abby Lacey set up Mental Health Mates – Reading after needing help herself, the support group helps anyone suffering as well as their family and friends

Founded in 2016 by author and journalist, Bryony Gordon, Mental Health Mates is a network of peer support groups, run by people who experience their own mental health issues, meeting regularly to walk, connect and share without fear or judgement.

In early 2019, being a fan of her writing and podcast, as well as suffering from anxiety for most of my life, I decided to check out Mental Health Mates. The nearest to me were about 20 miles in either direction, so after about five minutes of procrastination, I contacted them and offered to start my own group.

I know from experience that mental illness magnifies through isolation. I also know that being outside in nature is great for your mental health, so to incorporate walking and talking to someone, sharing with them or simply walking beside them – just connecting – is the first step to recovery.

In May 2019 I set up Mental Health Mates – Reading, organising bi-monthly weekend walks for people suffering from mental illnesses, along with their family and friends, in and around Reading.

We were lucky enough to have almost a year of walking together before the pandemic hit, but we’ve carried on walking when we can, and when we can’t, we meet bi-weekly through Zoom. The Zoom calls are a great way to check in, in a really informal environment. There is no structure to our calls – we chat about everything from TV to politics, from fashion to medication – we cover it all! There is never an expectation to talk and if you don’t want the camera on, that’s fine too.

We have built a great community of like-minded people, and we have visitors on the calls from all over the country as I, along with other walk leaders, actively advertise that all are welcome.

When we are able to get together, our accessible walks are as gentle or as brisk as the group would like, so we cater for everyone, covering about two miles over an hour.

We are truly spoilt for choice for locations in the area from beautiful lakes such as Dinton Pastures and Whiteknights Lake at the University of Reading, to the River Thames at Caversham. We’re hoping to expand our offering to west Reading too in the early summer too, so we can reach even more people.

If you would like to join Mental Health Mates – Reading please visit facebook.com/mhm.reading
Or for more information on support, visit mentalhealthmates.co.uk/support/


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Good Cheer Award Winners 2021

Round & About

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Thank you to everyone who nominated their favourite pubs, bars, restaurants, cafes, community stores, independent grocers and virtual and live events – there’s clearly a lot of love out there for those in the hospitality industry who’ve worked so hard to get through the past year even when they haven’t been able to open.

We asked you to share with us those who deserve recognition and thanks and have truly brought ‘good cheer’ to us as we’ve come together.
And the winners are…

Pub / bar

THAMES VALLEY:
SURREY:
Plough & Harrow, Warfield
Ten Tun Tap House, Alton

Restaurant / café

THAMES VALLEY:
SURREY:
Robyn’s Nest, Warfield
Nest, Ripley

Independent / community store

THAMES VALLEY:
SURREY:
Village Hamper, Sonning
Milland Community Shop

Virtual / live event

THAMES VALLEY:
SURREY:
Sarah Fountain, Watlington
Guildford Fringe Festival

Overall winners

THAMES VALLEY:
SURREY:
The Swan, Clewer
Thatched Tavern, Ascot