Maestro Matthew Taylor of Farnham Sinfonia

Round & About


Diana Martin tells us more about Matthew Taylor, the man behind Farnham Sinfonia

There really couldn’t be a better time to write an article on local composer and conductor Matthew Taylor, for the Oscar nominated Leonard Bernstein biopic Maestro is due to show at Farnham Maltings in February…Matthew was one of Bernstein’s protégées! 

Bernstein, who is known for composing one of the most successful musicals ever, West Side Story, had an inspired conducting style which led to his big break conducting the New York Philharmonic in 1943. He was one of the first American-born conductors to lead world-class orchestras and achieve success globally. Maestro tells the audience of Bernstein’s complex life, his musical fame and his marriage.

During his twenties Matthew was selected by Bernstein as one of three conductors to attend the Schleswig Holstein Musik Festival – when young musicians from all over the world are given the opportunity to study and perform great works from the orchestral literature with famous conductors.   During the summer Matthew continued to conduct concerts with Bernstein in Northern Germany. Matthew was a friend of Bernstein’s until his death in 1990.  He recalls with amusement Bernstein’s ability to put young musicians at ease by reciting limericks, some of which were quite risqué.

Matthew felt a passion for music at a very young age when his father would play Beethoven to keep him amused rather than playing nursery rhymes.  This led to his lifelong enthusiasm with music as he became both a conductor and composer.  He says, ‘Beethoven has always been central to all my thought processes as a composer.  I still find more life force in his work than in any living composer.’

Over the years, Matthew has appeared as Guest Conductor with many renowned orchestras both at home and abroad and which included many first performance pieces by Robert Simpson, Vagn Holmboe, David Matthews and James Francis Brown.  Matthew has also held significant roles such as Artistic Directorships, Composer in Residence and Lecturer in Composition at the Royal Academy of Music.  He currently works at the Yehudi Menuhin School, supporting the development of his students.

Matthew’s recent work includes his 6th Symphony which was commissioned by the family of Malcom Arnold for the composer’s centenary celebrations. Matthew has long been an advocate for Malcolm Arnold’s music. This work will be broadcast later this year with Matthew conducting the BBC National Orchestra of Wales.

Having moved to Farnham in 2010, a town that he considered home to many artistic people, Matthew decided to form an orchestra and the Farnham Sinfonia was born. Over time, his vision became a reality, and the orchestra nurtures the next generation of musical talent by inviting young aspiring musicians to perform solo with a professional orchestra. This is a unique proposition for the students and graduates alike and underlines Matthew’s enthusiasm to promote young talent.

Sinfonia’s Outreach programme includes Matthew and Lead Violinist Elizabeth Cooney visiting local schools and colleges to fill the gaps in musical education. Matthew is keen to impart his musical abilities with the rising stars of the future as well as nurturing the orchestra to its full potential.

The next concert is on Saturday, 23 March at 7.30pm at St Andrew’s Farnham.

Mahler – (theme from Death in Venice)

Beethoven – Piano Concerto No. 2 and Two Romances

Schumann – Fairytale (for Viola)

Hindemith – Trauermusik

Piazzolla – Spring

For further information on Farnham Sinfonia (CIO), please go to their website

Big Balloon Build raises over £10,000

Round & About


Local charities’ funds inflated by colourful display of more than 125,000 balloons with the help of Surrey’s Peanut Balloons

Surrey balloon artist Amy Brown has raised more than £10,000 for charity with her Big Balloon Build, an incredible festive display of creativity in December.

More than 1,000 people visited the Big Balloon Build created out of 125,000+ balloons and built in just under four days.

“I’ve seen such wonderful achievements from all the artists involved and incredible possibilities of what can be created out of the humble latex balloon on my journey with the Big Balloon Build,” said Amy, who owns and runs Peanut Balloons in Thursley. “Since my first build in 2017, I have wanted to bring this impressive world to the people in my area, so by bringing it home, I have not only been able to do this, but also help local charities within the community too.”

As a certified balloon artist, Amy has more than 15 years of balloon industry experience and loves the new challenges that balloon decorating brings. This was her sixth Big Balloon Build.

Seventy five of the best balloon artists were selected from around the world to come to the UK and transform the Charterhouse Club at Charterhouse School into a unique, walk-through balloon world, filling the 12,500 square foot Sports Hall.

The impressive display was created in just three and a half days although Amy worked for months behind the scenes with designers and organizers from the Big Balloon Build to bring this incredible event to Surrey.

Visitors were taken on a journey from London to the North Pole made entirely out of biodegradable, natural latex balloons and saw Big Ben, shops, enchanting elf villages, a ski slope with a skiing bunny, life-size reindeer ushering Santa’s sleigh across the winter sky and so much more. Paddington was certainly very popular.

One of those which benefitted was Meath Epilepsy Charity., Lucy Miguda, head of fundraising said: “This was incredible, it totally blew my mind!”

A VIP launch party was held with more than 80 guests including The Mayor of Waverley Cllr Penny Rivers, The Mayor of Godalming Cllr Adam Druce and The Mayor of Guildford Cllr Masuk Miah. Chancellor of the Exchequer, Jeremy Hunt, and his family joined in on the fun stopping by for a look when the build opened to the public Friday 15th to Sunday, 17th December.

“We had a lovely time at the balloon event, we have never seen anything like it and had to go around twice,” said Kimberley Burmingham, an associate at Phyllis Tuckwell.

“We are so very happy to receive this wonderful donation, which we will use to provide vital play and leisure opportunities to local disabled young people across the South East, so they can have fun and enjoy new activities with their friends,” said Becky Cox from Disability Challengers.

All profits from ticket sales have been donated in an equal split between the five charity partners: Disability Challengers, Action for Children, The Meath Epilepsy Charity, Phyllis Tuckwell and Farnham Youth Choir. The five charities will split the $10,000 raised to help children in the greater Surrey area.

“The funds raised from the Big Balloon Build could support up to 380 children by paying for soft furnishings for a young person moving into care, helping them to make their room feel like their own,” said Sam Jones, regional manager at Action for Children.

Generous sponsorships were also given from Brewers Decorator Centres and Dominos Pizza Guildford-Stoughton branch who provided a group trip for the delegates to Wisley Glow and evening pizzas for them too. “We are extremely grateful as without the delegates, these fundraising events don’t happen!” said Brown.

Gemar Balloons, a leading manufacturer of 100% bio-based rubber balloons, donated all 125,000+ balloons to the cause and PremiumConwin, the world’s leading manufacturer of high-quality balloon  inflators and ecofriendly balloon accessories, provided all equipment to inflate the Christmas Wonderland.

A home from home

Round & About


Birtley House Nursing Home is unique and unlike other care homes

At a time when new care homes are opening across the South-East on a weekly basis, Birtley House offers its residents a very different proposition. It takes years to build a true home, a bank of trusted staff and an excellent reputation, as we have done. 

Established in 1932, and a fourth-generation family-run business, the owners of Birtley House live on-site and our history and experience in care means we truly understand what it takes to create a genuinely homely environment whilst offering the highest quality service not just in care but with quality of life for the resident at the heart of it.

We pride ourselves on creating the ultimate home-from-home stay that exudes a vibrant, friendly and relaxed atmosphere. We encourage our residents to feel at home by bringing their own furniture and personal belongings, so they have familiar home comforts available to them. Birtley House prides itself on no specific visiting times, and with ample parking on site, family and friends can visit whenever they wish.

Birtley House provides specialist care services for both long and short-term stays including respite, and convalescent care, palliative care, or end-of-life support. Boasting a strong care team, Birtley House has on-site well-being staff such as physiotherapists, and an in-house chef creating delicious and nutritious food throughout the day, much of it sourced from our own large kitchen garden.

We offer potential residents a variety of accommodation options including nursing home rooms and our unique West Wing apartments, both of which have 24-hour nursing care on call. We also have an over-65’s retirement development of two-bedroomed supported-living flats, designed to provide a calm and worry-free life for those who are looking for more independence and flexibility, and who don’t require care just yet.

We always say that the best way to decide if Birtley House is right for you is with a visit. When you enter any care home, you will get an immediate feel as to whether the atmosphere and environment suit you, and what you are looking for. We are here every step of the way to guide you with impartial advice, and help you make an educated choice that is right for you.

For an insight into life at Birtley House, please take a moment to look at our social media accounts. Additionally, there is an independent website which publishes verified reviews from both residents past and present and their relatives, and our entry can be found here. We are very proud of our 9.9 out of 10 review score on

Find out more at, call 01483 892 055 and email [email protected]

Grayson Perry at The Lightbox

Round & About


Grayson’s tapestries visit Surrey for the first time. For those with good taste. Possibly.

Grayson Perry’s The Vanity of Small Differences – six large-scale tapestries exploring the British fascination with social class, created by the Turner Prize-winning artist as a result of his acclaimed TV series – go on display at The Lightbox this January. The tapestries, which are part of the Arts Council Collection, are touring the country and this will be their first public display in Surrey.

Inspired by the characters, incidents and objects the artist encountered during the making of his Channel 4 documentary series, All in the Best Possible Taste, the tapestries evolved from drawings and photography Perry made whilst travelling around England in search of what is – or isn’t – deemed to be ‘good taste’. 

Grayson Perry is one of Britain’s most celebrated artists and cultural figures.  He is recognised as a great chronicler of contemporary life, tackling subjects that are universally human: social status, identity, sexuality, religion and more.

In The Vanity of Small Differences, Perry shares a story of 21st century social mobility. The tapestries chart the life of a fictional character, Tim Rakewell, whose ‘class journey’ has parallels with that of his 18th century namesake, Tom Rakewell – the central figure in William Hogarth’s A Rake’s Progress (1732-34). 

As Hogarth told his tale in a series of eight paintings, Grayson Perry shares the rise and demise of Tim Rakewell in this series of six, 2m x 4m tapestries – an art form traditionally associated with grand houses for the depiction of great historical, religious and military scenes.  In The Vanity of Small Differences, Perry plays with the idea of using this ancient allegorical art to elevate the commonplace dramas of contemporary British life.

Art historical references within contemporary scenes feature throughout the series.  In The Adoration of the Cage Fighters,in which the infant Tim reaches for his mother’s smartphone, there are echoes of Mantegna’s Adoration of the Shepherds (c.1450), and Perry’s second tapestry, Agony in the Car Park, is described by the artist as a “distant relative” of Bellini’s Agony in the Garden (c.1465).

The Annunciation of the Virgin Deal shows Tim as a wealthy man having sold his business to Richard Branson, with the convex mirror and discarded shoes recalling the famous Arnofilni Portrait (1434) by Jan van Eyck; and in The Upper Class at Bay, Tim and his wife, now owners of a mansion in the Cotswolds, resemble Mr and Mrs Andrews walking through their estate in Thomas Gainsborough’s celebrated painting.

But the story ends in tragedy.  In Perry’s final, dramatic tapestry, Lamentation – which takes inspiration from The Lamentation (c.1441) by Rogier van der Weyden – Tim’s life comes to an end following a car accident.  This image also reconnects the series with Hogarth, whose final painting in A Rake’s Progress records Tom Rakewell’s death.

Grayson Perry said: “The tapestries tell the story of class mobility, for I think nothing has as strong an influence on our aesthetic taste as the social class in which we grow up. I am interested in the politics of consumerism and the history of popular design but for this project I focus on the emotional investment we make in the things we choose to live with, wear, eat, read or drive. Class and taste run deep in our character – we care. This emotional charge is what draws me to a subject”.

Sarah Brown, Director of The Lightbox, said: “We are thrilled that The Lightbox will host this exhibition, which marks Grayson Perry’s first solo exhibition in Surrey and is also the first time that The Vanity of Small Differences have been on public display in the county.  Creating local opportunities to experience the best contemporary and modern art is at the heart of what we do, and through our exhibitions, activities and community events we work hard to ensure that as many people as possible can benefit.”

“We share with Grayson a firm belief that “art is good for you”, and never have we needed it more. This exhibition will provide inspiration for the New Year and we look forward to welcoming visitors.”

Grayson Perry: The Vanity of Small Differences opens at The Lightbox, Woking on 27 January (until 2 June). A programme of events for visitors, schools and community groups accompanies the exhibition.  For further information:

Image credit: GraysonPerry: The Adoration of the Cage Fighters 2012, Arts Council Collection, Southbank Centre, London ©GraysonPerry Gift of the artist and Victoria Miro Gallery with the support of Channel 4 Television, The Art Fund and Sfumato Foundation with additional support from Alix Partners

A new lease of life

Karen Neville


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 at 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. 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 all over, visit to find your nearest one and get donating and buying pre-loved now.

You can also do your bit for the environment by upcycling furniture, just because that chest of drawers has seen better days don’t consign it to landfill, show it some TLC and revamp it.

Passion for preloved and recycled furniture led to Jane Goodman setting up Home Office Chic in 2017 in Horsell. Initally focussing on creating upcycled furniture for home offices, she came up with the idea of rejuvenating old bureaus, chairs and other work-related pieces which came into its own during lockdown with more people home working. As Jane says: “Home workers often do not have a dedicated office and artisan recycled bureaus and reupholstered chairs add individuality – you can make a desk area as plain or funky as you choose; as well as being more sustainable.

“Since the early days the business has been about sustainability – helping people to save furniture from landfill, so commissions range from anything from a shoe cupboard to a six-foot dresser!”

Want to give it a go yourself? Join one of Jane’s workshops and you’ll get tips and advice on how to transform a piece of your own taken along on the day and there’s cake and refreshments too. The next workshops run on September 24th, October 22nd and November 12th. Find out more and book your place at

The Upholstery Yard near Blackmore has been helping clients to give a new lease of life to their furniture for two years now under the expert tuition of Georgina. Classes cater for mixed abilities and are run in a friendly environment with Georgina on hand to provide guidance, encouragement and tea. She says: “These days customers who use our upholstery and recovering services are keen to refresh or upcycle sofas, chairs and headboards that might once have ended up in landfill. We aim to make them comfy and stylish again giving them – and often their owners too – a whole new lease of life!”

The Upholstery Yard’s new autumn term of furniture upholstery classes starts at the beginning of September. Designed for beginners or those with some past experience, the classes are small and friendly and take place in a workshop near Blackmoor in the Hampshire countryside. Find full details at

Making something out of nothing has always been the passion of Paula at Maisy Gray based at Langham Stables in Lodsworth. “Restyled vintage furniture is unique with its own imperfections, character and individuality,” she explains. “I have always been one for recycling and I have been upcycling and refinishing old furniture for some time now, it’s all about sustainability. I just hate to see good quality furniture tossed into the dump or landfill. We seem to have adopted a throw away culture.”

If you have a piece of furniture you’d like to fall in love with again visit to see what Paula can do for you.

Pretty much anything can be recycled, upcycled or repaired and if it’s not your forte then head to a repair café. There you’ll find helpful folk who can turn their hand to just about anything with the help of an array of tools. Repair Cafés are free meeting places where you can repair your toaster or other appliance, a bike or piece of furniture and just about any item you can think of! They’ll provide all the tools and materials you need and there’s expert help on hand to assist you.

The Guildford Repair café is at The Hive, Park Barn Drive where they meet from 10am to midday one Saturday a month, the next dates for your diary are September 9th and October 14th – start going through your cupboards and get repairing! Follow their ethos: “As a society we throw away vast amounts of stuff. Even things with almost nothing wrong, and which could get a new lease on life after a simple repair. The trouble is, lots of people have forgotten that they can repair things themselves or they no longer know how. Repair Cafés can change all that.”

Part of a worldwide movement started in 2007, there are cafes all around, visit to find your nearest.

Planet-friendly Recycle 4 Cash campaign

Liz Nicholls


Scott Andrews from Farnham invites you to sign up now to make money from your recyclables; £25 per household, £150 per club, school, charity or organisation and £1,500 for businesses commercial or retail

Scott has launched a crowdfunder campaign aimed at helping us all recycle more. Recycle 4 Cash rewards everyone taking part by giving points for everyday items thrown in the recycle bi, exchanging your recycling for points redeemable in the shop or online or converted into cash. Scott’s initial target is £25,000 with an ultimate goal of £100,000. There are about three weeks left so please support this now!

“With your help we can get this off the ground,” says Scott. “It’s an all-or-nothing bid so we hope you get behind us and recognise the benefits this will bring to everyone involved.”

“We are currently seeking funds to buy new machinery for our plastic recycling side of the business, the machines will be used to process the waste plastic into different products that will be re sold from the waste we collect, there’s four machines we are looking to purchase at a total of £30,000.

“We have secured £5,000 from four business customers who signed up for having their recycle bin emptied every two weeks so they can see a bargain. Ideally we want support from people and businesses in Farnham Surrey and the surrounding towns and villages as these will be the initial winners in this, however we realise others might love the idea and want to support us so we will give everyone who funds us something back – it could be something made by our workers or local craft makers at the very least 25% off the shop products. I hope this does get funded and the community get behind us so we in turn can help hundreds more raise funds for their great cause!”

Find your perfect wedding venue

Karen Neville


Choosing where and how you say ‘I do’ and celebrate your marriage is the first big decision for many couples, finding the venue that best suits your style and vision for the day will set the tone – no pressure then!

Thames Valley Wedding Venues

Surrey & Hampshire Wedding Venues

You’ve said yes and now it’s time to start the planning, there are so many decisions to be made not least the venue but don’t fret there are more options than you could toss your bouquet at to suit every style, theme and budget.

Thames Valley Venues

Courtyard by Marriott Oxford South

Whether you are looking for a traditional wedding or a bespoke package, personalised to your individual requirements, the Wedding Co-ordinator will be with you every step of the way. The modern and stylish hotel can comfortably accommodate ceremonies of up to 50, cater for parties of up to 80 for dinner and up to 100 for an evening reception. They are fully licensed for civil, humanist and religious ceremonies. Whether you are planning a large party or just inviting your closest friends, the 170 guest rooms ensure everyone can stay and have a good time. Find out more at

The George Hotel, Wallingford

Licensed for civil wedding ceremonies and with the adjacent Castle Gardens providing the ideal backdrop for photographs, The George can cater for your every need. If your celebrations are for a smaller group of family and friends, the Private Dining Room will accommodate up to 30 guests. For larger and more formal gatherings, which require evening entertainment, the Wealh’s or Sir John Hedges Suite are suitable for parties of 50 up to 100 for the Wedding Breakfast and 80 to 150 for the evening. More information at

Lains Barn, Wantage

The family-run venue has been catering for weddings and events for more than 50 years and offers a plethora of inside and outside areas for you and your guests to enjoy, without sacrificing that all-important atmosphere. The timber vaulted roof is steeped in history, dating back to 1750. The U-shaped design creates the perfect flow for your day to unfold. When night falls, Lains’ grounds are illuminated by festoon lighting – making for some seriously fabulous photo opportunities. Visit

Picture: Siobhan Beales Photography

Earth Trust, Abingdon

Mark your nuptials surrounded by nature with a rustic countryside wedding in the renovated 19th century barn at the Earth Trust at Wittenham Clumps. Not only can your celebration there be as personal and unique as you wish but you’ll also be championing the natural world and our green spaces. Fison Barn and the courtyard are both licensed for weddings and are both relaxed and picture perfect. Poem Tree Barn is ideal for mingling while you enjoy the bar and catering. The intimate courtyard is perfect for some chill-out time. More at

Cosener’s House, Abingdon

The 19th century house occupies a picturesque Thames-side position with private gardens; it truly is the hidden gem of Abingdon. You’ll work with an experienced wedding planner, who will guide and advise you along your journey from newly engaged to the moment you leave as a married couple. The Cosener’s House is licensed for indoor civil ceremonies. Panoramic gardens overlook the River Thames paired with traditional rooms to hold your wedding celebrations. More at The Cosener’s House.

Cogges Manor Farm, Witney

The 17 acres of Cogges Manor Farm provide many charming locations for your photographs – the Manor House lawn, the ever-changing walled garden and the orchard. You’ll enjoy sole use of the two barns plus an area for a fire pit or garden games and shelter too. Both are licensed for civil ceremonies and are next door to St Mary’s Church. Cogges gives you the flexibility to dress and furnish the barns as you wish, and to decide on your own caterers, musicians and other suppliers with Cogges help to your own, truly bespoke wedding, Cogges.

The Post, Newbury

The Post is a beautifully modern take on a countryside wedding venue. The English oak barn brings together contemporary architecture and bespoke design to create a wedding that reflects you and your vision, whether it’s a grand outdoor affair with dramatic sliding doors or an intimate candle-lit ceremony beneath the oak beams. The luxurious bridal pamper room is available for you and your bridal party to enjoy precious time together as you prepare for your big day. The dedicated wedding team will be on hand while your partner and guests are getting ready at the hotel. Visit

Picture: Chris Kemp Photography

Ufton Court, Ufton Nervet

Ufton Court is a charming and historic Tithe Barn and Grade I Listed Manor House wedding venue. The 16th Century timber-framed Tithe Barn provides the perfect blank canvas for your wedding celebrations. From the breath-taking driveway, perfectly manicured courtyard, traditional white walls and flagstone floors of the Tithe Barn to the historic Manor House and the grounds beyond. Whether you are looking for a cosy winter wedding with an open fire and blankets or a summer wedding with drinks on the terrace and garden games, Ufton Court is at your disposal. Additionally by holding your wedding at Ufton Court you will be directly helping the onsite children’s charity which supports hundreds of children and their families. Discover it for yourself at

Picture: Benjamin Stuart Photography

Elcot Park, Newbury

Recently named as Britain’s Best Hotel by The Times, The Retreat at Elcot Park between Newbury and Hungerford is a perfect wedding venue. A reimagined Georgian country house, The Retreat has beautiful private spaces, 55 individually-styled bedrooms, two stunning restaurants and an indulgent spa, all surrounded by glorious Berkshire countryside. A dedicated events team will help you plan your wedding, your way. Visit

Notley Abbey, thame

Boasting a rich history of royalty and Hollywood celebrity, it now serves as an incredible exclusive venue that is unlike any other around. Choose from The Abbot’s Hall or The Monks’ Refectory to exchange your vows, both showcasing stunning architectural highlights. Why not tie the knot outside in the idyllic sun trap that is the Walled garden? More at Notley Abbey.

The Swan At Streatley

The Aviary is the stunning setting for your special day at The Swan, from your ceremony for up to 120 of your family and friends to your reception for as many as 200 in the evening. Chefs have created a selection of menus for you to dine on for the wedding breakfast and at the end of your special day enjoy the night in a complimentary River Suite – six bedrooms will also be reserved for your nearest and dearest while you’ll also get a unique code for your guests to book online too.

Leander Club, Henley

Many wedding parties for the elegant Edwardian venue choose to arrive at Leander either by boat or on foot – it’s just a short walk over the bridge from Henley. Enjoy photographs on the lawn or landing stage before your wedding breakfast in the stylish dining room adorned with artworks and painted oars. Dance the night away with family and friends before a fabulous fireworks display to round off your special day.

Stanlake Park & Vineyard, Charvil

One for wine lovers – you’re sure of a divine experience in the vineyard at Stanlake Park to toast your sparkling day. The picturesque venue is set in 150 acres of gorgeous grounds, with a tree-lined driveway. Vintage barns have been restored to conjure up an idyllic location and there’s a variety of settings to say I do, hold drinks receptions and play lawn games. Stanlake Park guarantees you beautiful photographs at any time of year.

Badgemore Park, Henley

From the moment you arrive at Badgemore Park, you’ll know this is the place for you. From major corporate events to weddings, private parties and celebrations – the opportunities are endless with the choice of three stunning settings: The Coach house, The Fairway and a beautiful, covered Courtyard. Talk to the team to make your event memorable, and perfect in every way. More at

Stokes Farm Barn, Wokingham

The picturesque family-run Stokes Farm Barn is a rustic wedding venue full of character and licensed for civil ceremonies. The main barn is a bright space with floor to ceiling windows and beams. Enjoy drinks and canapes on the lawn and patio and the balcony bar presents the opportunity to watch those strutting their stuff overlooking the dance floor.

Monkey Island Estate, Taplow

The centuries-old retreat hidden alongside the River Thames offers the perfect setting. Picturesque and private, you’ll create unforgettable and precious memories. Whether you are looking to hold a dream countryside wedding with a marquee on the lawns, an intimate ceremony and dinner party or an elegant wedding in the stately ballroom, Monkey Island Estate can cater for everyone.

Wasing Park, Aldermaston

Located in the rural village of Aldermaston, Wasing Park is a luxury wedding venue set in stunning 18th-century parkland with historical buildings. The wonderful wedding venue boasts a stunning Victorian Summerhouse, a Castle Barn and the spectacular Stables Lodge. Located in the Terrace Garden, the Victorian summerhouse is traditionally built with wooden seating to all sides, often used for the ceremony in spring and summer. The interior has a hand-painted mural – a stunning photo backdrop.

Combe Manor Barn, Hungerford

The country house was listed in the Domesday Book in 1086 so getting married here assures your day will become part of history. The venue is licensed to hold civil ceremonies and for those wanting a church service, there is a beautiful 12th century church just yards from the barns. Only one wedding a week is hosted giving you access to the barns from the Wednesday prior to your special day. They have a list of excellent suppliers for your catering and floristry who are both local and have worked at Combe successful in the past. Other features included in the hire are a beautiful bridal bedroom with en suite bathroom for the day and much more. See more at Combe Manor.

Chalk Barn, Rushall Near Pewsey

A wedding at Chalk Barn is a truly exceptional experience. The day before your wedding is included as standard whether you have a hands on approach or a team to help you set up, the barn is yours for the day to decorate, dress, and perfect. Say I do in the barn or on the infinity lawn, the Wiltshire countryside is your backdrop. From a rustic feast to a refined banquet, artisan producers can help create a menu perfect for your day. And after you’ve celebrated, spend the night in The Hide.

Rockley Manor, Marlborough

Usually a private residence, the Grade II listed manor invites you to host your wedding day in the stunning grounds and house. You will have exclusive use of the grand 18th century manor and gardens to create a romantic and tranquil setting. The dedicated and experienced team’s attention to detail makes no aspect of your wedding too big or too small, leaving you with peace of mind, and your guests wowed at the how perfectly the day has run. Wedding breakfasts are held in the impressive Baronial Hall, while the courtyard and Park make the perfect backdrop for your wedding photos. Find more Rockley Manor Wedding Venue.

Templars Weddings, Hungerford

Templars is still a working farm today so perfect for a rustic yet elegant special occasion. Land owner Charles Perry rebuilt Templars Barn in 1998. The entire barn is seven bays long and you’ll notice the roof is a shade of pink because it reminded Mr Perry of the family holidays in the south of France. The property also comes with ample parking and a paddock for outdoor drinks and activities. Discover more at Templars Weddings.

Surrey & Hampshire Venues

Farnham Castle

Farnham Castle is a stunning historic, multi-award-winning venue for weddings, overlooking the historic, market town of Farnham, on the Surrey/Hampshire border. It is the perfect choice for your wedding, from ceremony, to reception, to party… and after the party you can relax overnight in the Guildford Honeymoon Suite, and for your guests, 33 guest bedrooms await. However you want to celebrate, the experienced team of Wedding Specialists will ensure that your wedding is managed to perfection. | [email protected] | 01252 720402.

Picture: Harry Michael Photography

Painshill, Cobham

Painshill is a beautiful 18th century landscape full of picturesque garden buildings and stunning views. They are licensed to host ceremonies within the Gothic Temple, a romantic folly with an incredible backdrop. Couples can then take advantage of wonderful photo opportunities around the landscape at beautiful locations, featured in Married At First Sight and Bridgerton, including the sparking Crystal Grotto. Contact them today at to book an appointment to experience the views for yourself.

Credit: Married at First Sight UK

Gorse Hill, Woking

The Edwardian mansion sits in 17 acres offering oodles of photo opportunities for your bridal party while guests enjoy a drinks reception on the lawns. The Garden Suite Ballroom is available for seated wedding breakfasts and evening receptions. A private balcony overlooks the gardens from the honeymoon suite and with 67 rooms there is ample accommodation for guests too. More at Gorse Hill | Woking.

Great Fosters, Egham

The five-star hotel is set amongst 50 acres of stunning formal gardens and is licensed for civil ceremonies for up to 180 guests. The Tithe bar is a charming location for the wedding breakfast and up to 220 guests for an evening reception. Smaller celebrations can be held in The Orangery. The hotel’s gardens, with a Japanese bridge, lake, fountain and and Saxon moat, provide an idyllic backdrop. Find more at Great Fosters Hotel.

Pennyhill Park, Camberley

Exchange your vows in the Terrace Pavilion surrounded by 120 acres of stunning countryside and then head to the lily pond for unforgettable memories and photos you’ll treasure. Indoor ceremonies will be against the backdrop of the Library with vintage fireplaces and large windows offering views of the grounds. Handcrafted chandeliers add an elegant touch to the banquet hall where you’ll enjoy award-winning cuisine. Find out more The Pennyhill Park Hotel.

Coverwood Lakes, Gardens & Farm, Cranleigh

Those looking for less formal and ‘traditional’ style weddings will be intrigued by this unique venue which hosts tipi weddings amid 225 impressive acres of landscaped gardens and lakes. Only a limited number of weddings are held here each year so your lakeside setting is sure to be even more memorable for you and your guests in marquees and tipis on the lawns – perfect for your special day whether a traditional wedding, more bohemian or rustic.

Worplesdon Place, Guildford

The 19th-century manor house is located within two acres of landscaped gardens overlooking the swan lake. It can comfortably host up to 50 seated guests or 80 guests for an evening celebration and features a DJ and buffet space. An on-site event coordinator will assist with planning and additional amenities and facilities are available to you and guests.

High Billinghurst Farm, Guildford

The enchanting and romantic venue showcases the Hay Barn with large inglenook fireplace, bar and dancefloor for up to 150, with the interlinking Elizabethan Barns providing the perfect space for receptions, ceremonies and blessings. There is ample space for marquees, tipis or stretch tents if required and an area that can be used for glamping with toilet pavilion and showers.

Lythe Hill Hotel, Haslemere

Want your wedding to be part of history? Then how about a 16th century Tudor House for the venue overlooking a lake with breath-taking views of the South Downs. The combination of old-world charm and contemporary decor is sure to appeal with a sky view lantern roof and exposed beams while in the summer what could be better than the outdoor gazebo to say ‘I do’.

Gate Street Barn, Guildford

This family-run property is a working farm complete with cattle and pigs and is available to host weddings all year round. Get back to nature with a ceremony in The Barn or perhaps you want to tiptoe through the bluebell-lined paths for a fairytale blessing in the woods. If you decide to tie the knot in autumn or winter, wood-burning stoves will add to the magic of the day. Beautiful onsite accommodations can sleep up to 28 guests with the happy couple often opting for the seclusion of The Hayloft. Find more at Gate Street Barn.

Froyle Park, Alton

Jacobean features, a grand staircase and ornate fireplaces will greet you and your guests here for a ceremony that can host up to 300. A choice of ceremony venues is available depending on your requirements but you’re guaranteed to fall in love with whichever you choose. Luxurious en-suite bedrooms will welcome guests after a hard day’s celebrating. Discover more at Froyle Park Harbour Hotels.

The Anchor Inn, Alton

Fully licensed to host civil ceremonies, the country pub wedding venue offers a choice of private indoor and outdoor spaces of which the State Room takes pride of place. Full of charm and tradition, The Anchor Inn is the ideal venue for those looking for an intimate ceremony, larger parties can wine and dine in the rustic-style restaurant. The courtyard garden offers space to gather outside on warmer evenings.

Departure Lounge Café, Alton

The vintage decoration will impress those looking for an alternative wedding reception venue but will also provide everything you’re looking for from your special day in this unique countryside location. Catering for up to 150 guests in the café, marquee and gardens, the Departure Lounge is fully licensed and offers an afternoon tea option, buffet menu or hog roast. There is an area ideal for a live band or disco and the premises can be decorated to your taste.

Gilbert White’s House, Selborne

Enjoy your day in the 16th century Hampshire Barn, with glorious views over meadows, or for a more intimate ceremony and reception, the historic house and White’s Bistro. The Great Mead affords a charming location for an outdoor reception whether this is a marquee, teepee or bell tent you will be surrounded by stunning views in this location that allows you to celebrate your wedding, your way. Couples also have the opportunity to work with Gilbert White’s Brewery, to make their own loving brew for their special day. The venue is pet-friendly too, allowing your furry friends to share in your day.

The Welldiggers Arms, Petworth

The authentically British pub boasts intimate rooms and a delightful alfresco dining area with space for up to 120 guests using indoor and outdoor areas. The cottage style garden is ideal for summer celebrations while in winter it is heated and weatherproof with fur blankets on the furniture to keep you cosy. Embracing all that epitomises the country pub with local real ales and traditional British cuisine, a dedicated event team will be on hand to help you with every aspect and at the end of the day, one of the 14 en-suite rooms awaits. Find more at The Welldiggers Arms.

Cowdray Walled Garden, Midhurst

A hidden gem of a venue set against the astounding backdrop of Cowdray Ruins in the heart of the South Downs. Licensed for both indoor and outdoor ceremonies, up to 100 guests can be seated for the big moment in either the Castle Room which looks out over the ruins and the Courtyard with exposed stone walls which allow an opportunity to bring the outside in. The Walled Garden work with a selection of carefully chosen caterers with a strong emphasis on sustainability.

The Lismoyne Hotel, Fleet

A tree-lined driveway leads to this stunning property, complemented by beautiful English gardens and overlooked by a 300-year-old sequoia tree. The property is licensed for ceremonies in two banqueting rooms, conservatory or outside in the gazebo. This memorable location is perfect for both large and more intimate weddings, offering a perfect backdrop for your very special day. Explore more at Weddings | Hotel Wedding Packages Hampshire.

The Elvetham, Hartney Wintney

Original feature fireplaces, rich oak walls and spectacular views of perfectly manicured gardens create the perfect backdrop for your wedding. Choose from the Oak Room (up to 120 guests), the Morning Room (up to 50 guests) or an outdoor ceremony under the arches of the original Victorian summerhouse. Larger parties can then dine and toast the happy couple in the Grand Library whose walls are adorned with literature. Thirty five acres of gardens will provide you with so many photo backdrops you’ll be spoilt for choice. Find more at The Elvetham Hotel.

Lythe Hill Hotel, Haslemere

Want your wedding to be part of history? Then how about a 16th century Tudor House for the venue overlooking a lake with breath-taking views of the South Downs. The combination of old-world charm and contemporary decor is sure to appeal with a sky view lantern roof and exposed beams while in the summer what could be better than the outdoor gazebo to say ‘I do’. Explore more at Weddings – Lythe Hill.

Budgie Smuggler Run for mental health

Round & About


Well done to the 20 brave men who have bared (almost) all for an outdoor winter fundraiser in Virginia Water raising more than £2,500 (so far) for the Mental Health Foundation.

We’ve all been feeling the cold in recent weeks. So praise is due to the local runners who braved the chilly trails of Virginia Water Lake togged up in just a pair of running shoes and “budgie smuggler” briefs.

The Budgie Smuggler Run 2023 event was founded by Brian Turner, Josh Lappin, Paul Dash and Jordan McDowell from Hampshire and Surrey in 2021 when they wanted to raise money and awareness for charity.

Since then, others have joined in the January spectacle, with 20 runners taking on the 7km route last Sunday (29th January) raising more than £2,500 for the Mental Health Foundation.

Brian said: “It started off as a bit of a laugh, but with a serious aim to raise money and awareness for charities that are close to our hearts. It certainly does turn heads, and after the first run I was surprised to find more people than just me willing to strip down and run the 7km route in the middle of winter.”

The Budgie Smuggler Run is now set to become an annual mass participation event in aid of raising money and awareness for men’s mental health.

World record holder Darren Hardy, a charity fundraiser and former British Army officer who was medically discharged from the army with PTSD in 2017, joined this year’s event. “It’s such a great event and certainly turned heads,” he said. “Despite the frosty January start we all rose to the occasion and drew quite a crowd at the finish line. I’d absolutely recommend it to anyone wanting to do something a bit different for charity.”

“It certainly does turn heads”

Over the last two years, runners have raised £2.5k for BulliesOut, an anti-bullying charity, and £1.3k for Cancer Research UK.

To find out more and donate please visit 7k Budgie Smuggler Run 2023 (

Care for your trees with Brackendale

Round & About


Brackendale Tree Care has valuable advice to help you care for your trees in winter

At this time of year, your garden will probably look as if it’s settled down for winter. That surely means your jobs for the year are all wrapped up. All you need to do now is feed the birds and enjoy your garden from the warmth of your home.

However, winter is the perfect time to crack on and care for your trees.

Not only is winter the ideal time for tree care from Mother Nature’s perspective, but it’s also a great time for us humans. Other garden jobs, such as weeding, lawn mowing and hedge trimming aren’t needed so we have time to lavish on our trees instead. And after all, what’s better than getting outside into the fresh air and work up an appetite for all that hearty winter food?

The two big tree-related jobs for the winter are winter pruning and planting bare rooting trees.

Job 1 – winter-pruning your trees

It’s nearly always better to prune your trees in the winter than in the spring or summer. There are a host of reasons for this, which we’ll now go into.

For deciduous trees at least, the lack of leaves makes it far easier to see what you’re doing. This means you’re less likely to trim your trees back too far or into a shape that you’re not happy with. There’s also the benefit of having almost no leaves to sweep up afterwards – only the branches and leaves. You’ll also know that nesting birds won’t be an issue – it’s only from March onwards that nesting becomes something to bear in mind

Because trees are dormant in the winter, their sap is less active. Sap delivers water and nutrients throughout the tree which may ‘bleed’ when the tree is cut. Too much bleeding can shock your tree so it’s important to make sure you’re pruning at the right time of year. Most trees are best pruned in the winter, although there are some such as magnolia and birch which should be pruned at a different time of year.

Winter pruning is a great way of reinvigorating trees and bushes that were beginning to look tired or straggly. Successful winter pruning can encourage bushy, healthy growth, helping revive a previously tired-looking specimen.

Pruning during the winter also helps prevent diseases. That’s because the bacteria, insects and fungi that carry the diseases are dormant or dead. So, by pruning during the winter months, your tree is less likely to pick up a serious disease.

Job 2 – plant bare rooted trees

Another job that’s perfect for the winter months is planting bare rooted trees. Loved by gardeners and tree surgeons alike, bare rooted trees are the best choice for anyone wanting to enhance their garden with healthy, strong plants.

Using bare rooted trees and hedges gives you a better range of plants to choose from, thanks to the range of specialist nurseries that deal with bare rooted plants. They’re also far better value than pot-grown plants giving you a healthy sapling for a bank-balance friendly price. This makes bare-rooted trees and hedges a must-buy for anyone wanting to plant lots of trees or a new hedge.

There are a few things to remember when planting bare rooted trees:

1. Plant bare-rooted trees quickly as you can

The longer you leave your bare rooted trees unplanted, the more moisture they will lose from their roots. And the more moisture they lose, the lower your chances of having a healthy tree in your garden. If you can’t plant your tree immediately, store them somewhere cool (a garage or shed is perfect) with their roots wrapped in a plastic bag.

2. Stake your bare-rooted tree after planting

Staking your bare rooted trees will help them establish more successfully by keeping the roots healthy. By keeping your new tree in a stable position, you minimise the chances of torn roots. It can take as much as two years for a new tree to fully anchor itself into the soil, which makes this step especially important.

3. Water trees thoroughly in the first year after planting

Although your new tree or hedge won’t need water while it’s dormant, as soon as you start seeing leaves bursting into bud, it’s time to water. Water your tree thoroughly (a full watering can is perfect) once a week – or more often if the weather is dry. In especially dry, warm weather you should water your new tree two or three times a week to help it establish.

Get in touch for help with winter pruning and planting

Winter pruning and planting bare rooted trees are tasks that your tree surgeon can advise on and help with. If you have questions or would like us to look after your pruning and planting, get in touch and we’ll be happy to help.

Guildford Design Awards Exhibition in Surrey

Round & About


Interested in good design? Interested in exciting new buildings in the borough? Interested in sustainability?

The Guildford Design Awards Exhibition concludes its travel round the villages at West Horsley Place on Saturday, 29th October, 10am-4.30pm.

The exhibition will then have two days at the Guildhall in Guildford; on Friday 18th & Saturday 19th November, 10am-4.30pm.

The Guildford Design Awards were established to encourage and recognise; good design in new buildings and external spaces; restoration and conservation projects which ensure the legacy of our heritage buildings; projects which demonstrate sustainable energy principles and exemplary environmental awareness. The Awards help to establish a sense of civic pride in our built environment and improve our awareness of the importance of good design and the benefits it brings to our daily wellbeing.

Make sure to catch the travelling exhibition of the 2020 and 2021 award-winning projects to coincide with the Heritage and Architecture Open Days. Admission is free. Learn about some the excellent quality of commercial, public and community buildings, individual houses, multiple housing, conservation and regeneration projects and public art

Exhibition locations, dates and times:-

The Guildford Design Awards is a joint project between the Guildford Society and Guildford Borough Council, applications for the 2023​ Awards ​​(which as 2022 awards were postponed because of the pandemic, will include projects completed between June 2021 and June 2023), will be open next spring.

Submit an entry...

Potential entries are welcome over the next 12 months – email [email protected]