A future proofed home

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didcot

As we get older, our housing needs change. The family house can suddenly seem too big and expensive to manage, the stairs that bit trickier, and the efforts we have to go to maintain it all leave us little time or energy to do the things we want to spend time doing.

Downsizing for a better quality of life makes sense but bungalows are scarce and command such premium prices you’re unlikely to free up enough money to enjoy that dream retirement. Then there’s stamp duty, fees, the likelihood you’ll have to spend more money on whatever you buy to make it suitable to grow old in – all this means many end-up staying put.

The specialist developer of contemporary retirement properties, Birchgrove, offers modern and spacious apartments in Kent and Surrey. Each apartment is individually designed to maximise space and light and has the Birchgrove trademark of high-quality finishes so that the apartments are distinctly elegant.

All apartments are specifically designed for people in later life, featuring waist height appliances in the fully fitted kitchens for easy access and en-suite showers. All doors and corridors are wheelchair accessible for freedom of movement.

Residents have access to exclusive onsite amenities such as a restaurant, bar, club room, a communal terrace, exercise studio, landscaped gardens and greenhouse. Regular events and activities programme also contribute to the friendly community lifestyle, and for added peace of mind there is a concierge and 24 hour staff presence.

One thing that will strike you when you visit a Birchgrove retirement community, is how friendly the team are. Because the apartments are not for sale, you’ll find that the Advisors are not trying to sell you anything, rather they are there to help you consider your options and act as a guide for you whilst you make your own choices about how and where you want to live.

If you find yourself needing a little extra assistance, our tailored care support is offered through our homecare specialist partners who can personalise a care package for your individual requirements.

In addition, all apartments are fitted with a digital telecare console to offer residents assistance at the touch of a button. Residents can use the console to contact the concierge desk, look up what they want for dinner, book appointments and connect with their family and friends: as well as a discreet 24/7 emergency call service that can call for immediate assistance if needed.

If you would like to find out more about living at a Birchgrove retirement community, contact the team who will happily talk through the options and tailor something that works to support your individual needs. Call 020 3929 5599 or visit www.birchgrove.life

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Valerian Court: A home from home

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Valerian Court is a brand-new purpose-built luxury care home set to open its doors to welcome new residents in summer 2022

Offering the very best in person-centred care, Valerian Court will be offering all-inclusive residential, nursing, dementia and respite care, providing support and companionship when needed around the clock.

The care of the residents is of paramount importance and the dedicated and caring team ensure privacy, dignity and respect whilst fostering independence, confidence and wellness of each of the residents.

This elegant home has been designed with the residents in mind with no attention to detail being missed. From luxury en-suite bedrooms that are beautifully decorated to a café and an array of dining rooms where you can enjoy quality home-cooked nutritious food lovingly prepared by the team of resident chefs.

There are lounges available on every floor of the home that provide a perfect haven for some R&R or why not pop into the library or one of the quiet rooms to catch up on the newspaper or to read your favourite book.

Moving into a care home really does not mean that you have to miss out on all of your favourite things and with a hairdresser on site you never need to miss an appointment. There’s a café to enjoy a cup of tea and slice of homemade cake and we provide a warm welcome for your family and friends to come in and join you and to be a part of the Valerian Court community.

If watching movies is your thing then relax with some popcorn in the cinema room or why not join in with the extensive activities programme that offers arts and crafts sessions, exercise classes, music and entertainment to name just a few of the activities.

With balconies and a rooftop garden you can enjoy the summer whilst doing some gardening or why not sit back and watch the comings and goings of the Didcot community.

Providing a warm and inviting environment for the residents and their families is what the home prides itself on. Come and discover the lifestyle that Valerian Court has to offer by visiting our Marketing Suite which opens on 18th May.

Find out more at Valerian Court Care Home and email

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Plans for homes at Valley Park

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Taylor Wimpey is inviting Didcot and Harwell residents to see the latest plans for the first phase of new homes at Valley Park during a public exhibition in November.

Valley Park will comprise up to 4,254 new homes, south of the A4130 and west of Great Western Park. The development will include 1,489 affordable homes as well as community facilities including two new primary schools, a Special Education Needs school, shops, sports facilities, playing fields, allotments and open spaces.

Outline planning permission for Valley Park was granted by the Vale of White Horse District Council in July 2021. The first phase, to be known as Primrose at Valley Park, will comprise 293 homes, of which 103 will be classed as affordable housing.

Taylor Wimpey is holding a public exhibition at the District Community Centre at Great Western Park from 12.30pm to 7.30pm on Friday, 12th November. People will be able to see the latest plans for Primrose ahead of the submission of a reserved matters planning application in the new year.

Gary Needham, Land and Planning Manager for Taylor Wimpey Oxfordshire, said: “Valley Park is a major development for the Didcot and Harwell area and we are excited to be able to show off our detailed plans for the first phase of new homes, which will be known as Primrose.

“We’ve seen through our neighbouring Great Western Park development, which is almost sold out, that having a range of great facilities on the doorstep creates a brilliant community, and we know that Valley Park will be no different. We’re eager to meet people in person, talk them through our designs for Primrose and give a real feel for what this new development will be like to live on.”

The public exhibition for Primrose at Valley Park will take place in the Apple Room at the District Community Centre, 1 Gentian Mews, Great Western Park, Didcot, Oxfordshire, OX11 6GR, between 2pm and 7pm on Friday 12th November 2021. People can also visit www.taylorwimpey.co.uk/new-homes/didcot/valley-park to find out more about the plans and register their interest in a new home.

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Home help

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Didcot’s own Matt Richardson tells Peter Anderson how much he’s looking forward to his show at the Cornerstone – not least because his mum always helps his home gig sell out!

Matt’s first tour at the tender age of 21 was called Hometown Hero, and now he brings his latest tour Imposter to his home town. With this tour, he’s celebrating a decade delighting audiences, both as a stand-up and as a link on many television shows. When I caught up with the lad from Didcot I found, among other things, his mother is still one of his best, and busiest fans.

“I love the show at The Cornerstone whenever I do it,” says Matt. “It’s full of familiar faces and it’s always a lovely sell-out! My mum basically does all the leg work and promotes it to everyone she knows, so it’s a very stress-free show for the promoter!”

What can the audiences look forward to?” It’s loads of new material, about growing up and settling down with some stories about my slightly unusual life on the fringes of the public eye, with one or two of my old routines thrown in from my previous shows as a slight celebration of my decade in the business!”

Feeling he is an imposter as an adult now 28, what’s Matt favourite age? “About 21 or 22. You’ve broken into the world and feel like everything is in front of you and anything is possible, but a lot of the reality hasn’t set in yet. And your parents are still happy to cover your rent once in a while.”

His career has included television work, does the stand-up experience stand him in good stead? “Yes, I really think it does. I’ve done a lot of shows that require dealing with members of the public, and I think years on stage talking to them really sets you up for that. Live TV is such a different beast to stand-up, but I’ve had to make up 10 minutes of a show after the autocue failed and there was nothing to prompt me. The one thing live TV and stand-up have in common are this – when it’s going badly time slows down to a crawl!”

Is there somewhere he would love to perform? “I’d be quite keen to gig in America. I’ve filmed there lots over the years, but I’d be really interested to see how my act goes down with their comedy club audiences. I’ve got a lot of routines I worry are far too UK centric, and I am planning on world domination (once I can sell out Didcot without my mum, of course).”

More info

Matt is performing on Saturday 15th February; visit the Cornerstone website for ticket information.

Business School

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didcot

Make money from your passion at Pop-Up Business School in Didcot 

Have you always wanted to start your own business but don’t really know how or what the next steps are? 

Help is at hand at a Pop-Up Business School in Didcot next week when you’ll be able to get advice on starting a business with no money, marketing, all the legal stuff and much more. 

The five-day course at the Civic Hall will help new and established businesses get going and to  kick start them in the right way. You don’t need to attend every day but the more workshops you can visit the better, the more you’ll learn and the more you’ll get out of it. 

The Pop-Up Business School has been running live events for seven years and shows a new way of thinking and practical ways to get your business off the ground. 

Each day is split into two sessions and the week starts with help on how to start a business for free and the quickest way to do so. Tuesday is all about sales and marketing before website Wednesday teaches you how to build a website for free and setting up online payments. 

Thursday focuses on social media – where are your customers online and using social media to find them before the week ends with a guide to the legal stuff on Friday. 

In addition to the workshops, Pop Up also provides one-to-one support whenever possible and continuing online support to all participants after the event. 

All sessions are free, but places are limited so booking is essential for the course which runs from 27th to 31st January, 10am to 3pm daily except Friday, 10am to 1pm. 

More info...

To find out more and register for your place to make money from your passion visit

Downland Dance open day

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didcot

Have you or your little ones ever wanted to be a ballet dancer? Downland Dance are giving you the opportunity to try out a ballet class for FREE during their open day on Saturday, 2nd November.

During the half-term open day, prospective students are invited to attend a FREE ballet class at one of the studios in Abingdon or Didcot. Meet the teachers to learn more about the different classes offered, and ask any questions you may have. You can sign up for sessions for girls and boys aged 3 to 6 or for the Adult Beginners class (Didcot only).

The free open day classes for boys and girls aged 3-6 are at West Wing Studio, Coxeter House, Abingdon and Didcot Girls School, Manor Crescent from 9am to 9.45am. There is also an adult beginners class (ages 14 upwards) from 10am to 11am in Didcot.

Downland Dance was founded in 1977 and offers a range of ballet classes for children and adults and whether you want to take it for fun and exercise or with a view to taking Royal Academy of Dance ballet and character exams, it’s a great way to improve your body and mind.

Dance can have a positive lasting effect on your co-ordination, fitness and flexibility; enhance your energy levels, confidence and self-confidence; improve posture to help reduce aches and pains; build strength, stamina nad agility and increase general physical and mental wellness.

Open day places are limited so don’t delay, if you are interested go the website www.downland-dance.co.uk/open-days and complete the register form. If you have any questions email

And if you miss out on this chance to dance, there is another open day planned for Saturday, 22nd February.

Didcot Food Festival

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didcot

Enjoy great food & drink, fantastic cookery demos and magic at this year’s Didcot Food Festival on Saturday 26th and Sunday 27th October.

Didcot Food Festival, now in its fourth year, has proved so popular that this year the event will cover two days. Held in the Didcot Civic Hall, which offers indoor space for over 50 artisan traders, the Kid’s Kooking Zone, Chef’s Theatre and Vintage Tea Room.

The show opens at 10.30 am on the 26th by the time-travelling magical duo Morgan and West who will combine an act of magic and a love of food. Rhys Morgan says: “Our opening at this year’s Didcot Food Festival will be ‘bafflemint’ mixed with a hint of amazement and a generous dollop of laughter. We can’t give away too much; a good magic trick is like a good joke and ruined if you let the punchline out of the bag too early. So, to enjoy our opening act, you will just have to ensure you are part of the crowd and see what it is all about.”

Other Oxfordshire chefs lined up to amaze the audience with their culinary skills are old favourite Nick Bennett who reached the final of MasterChef The Professionals in 2015. Nick has a way of creating fine dining dishes look so simple, but we all know it takes a lot of technical skill to produce the type of food for which Nick is known for. Other chefs include Joe McCarthy from the award-winning Wychwood Inn at Shipton-under-Wychwood. Joe takes simple ingredients and turns them into memorable and very tasty dishes. John Van Nielerk from the newly opened Hilton Garden Inn in Abingdon which will be showcasing something fishy: the hotel’s restaurant has a Mediterranean influenced menu, but John also adds a hint of South African flavours to his food, drawing on dishes from his homeland. We will also gain an insight into some of the food produced by the chefs at The Circle Hospital in Reading.

For lovers of Thai food, Nawamin Pinpathomrat, the post-graduated research doctor who reached the final of the 2018 MasterChef will be cooking a splendid crab dish inspired by flavours from Thailand combined with Cornish crab.

Organiser of the Chef’s Kitchen, former Great British Bake Off quarter finalist Christine Wallace will give a fun demonstration with Howard Middleton who also appeared in Series 4 of GBBO. Together they will show off their baking skills adding a huge amount of laughter and amusement throughout the whole demonstration. Ali Imdad who was on the programme with Christine and Howard will also be showing how he is influenced by flavours from his travels and his culture.

Former That’s Life presenter and now BBC Radio Berkshire presenter Bill Buckley will show his love of cooking once more. Also new for this year will be two masterclasses on butchery skills and chocolate making. Radio presenter Al Ryan will be Master of Ceremonies.

Inspired?

Excited to get cooking? Check out our recipes and get in the foodie spirit

Presence, Cornerstone

Karen Neville

didcot

Kate Aries

Four emerging Oxford based artists are showcasing their work in an exhibition at Didcot’s Cornerstone.

Presence is a group exhibition featuring the work of Kate Aries, Manon Franklin-Fraiture, James Lester and Jack Whitney.
Combining drawing, textile, illustration and digital artworks, the artists have created new works that question what is means to exist in the contemporary world, physically, sexually, virtually and digitally.

Visitors will be able to engage with works perceptually and/or physically, encouraging them to also contemplate these questions.
Kate Aries explores perception and illusion through experimentation with the camera, using different techniques to obscure and restrict her body. Kate’s practice focuses not only on embodied experience, but also the manipulated and processed image in our changing society.

James Lester
Jack Whitney
Manon Franklin-Fraiture

Manon Franklin-Fraiture’s quirky illustrations incorporate conversations and questions she overhears and brings them to life, shining a light on how human existence can be in our modern life.
James Lester is a portraiture artist whose work contemplates the shaping of humanity within a modern context. Throughout the duration of the exhibition James will be creating large-scale charcoal murals of an array of celebrity figures, offering visitors the chance to watch the artist in action.

Jack Whitney’s practice challenges normative notions of gender, sexuality and politics, for this exhibition Jack has used embroidery as a way of drawing humorous yet thought provoking images.

Exhibition

Presence runs from today, 6th, until 18th August and is free to attend.

Visit the Cornerstone site for more information about this or any of the other productions on.

Full steam ahead

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didcot

Step back in time as Didcot Railway Centre launches Lady of Legend

The Great Western Society will see 15 years of hard work, sweat and tears realised when Lady of Legend is officially launched at Didcot Railway Centre.

Since 2004, the society has been working to recreate an example of the iconic ‘Saint’ class locomotive and now work is complete it will be unveiled by culinary queen Prue Leith, a former member of the British Railways Board, on Friday, 5th April at 11.15am.

The GWR ‘Saint’ class locomotives, introduced by G J Churchward in 1902, represented one of the most important steps forward in railway traction of the 20th century. The class incorporated many revolutionary advances in design and the ‘Saints’ are now acknowledged to have had a huge influence on almost every aspect of steam locomotive development.

The final engine, the Saint David, was withdrawn from service and scrapped in 1953, ending the work of the service – until now.

Lady of Legend will be on display over the weekend to visitors to the railway centre as will another well-known local lady, baking icon Christine Wallace, who will be familiar to many from Bake Off.

She will be found in a marquee at the centre cooking up Edwardian dishes from the era and dressed as Downton Abbey cook, Mrs Patmore. Edwardian cookery was quite lavish so visitors will be in for an extra treat with tastings available.

Also on show will be several other engines, coaches and wagons and you can enjoy a ride in coaches from the 1930s.

For more information and to book tickets, visit Didcot Railway Centre