If you love gin, Earl Grey tea and fudge, read on….

Fudge fans can look forward to two new bespoke flavours thanks to collaborations between award-winning Cornish confectioner Buttermilk and two neighbouring producers.
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Buttermilk has brewed up a partnership with Truro-based Tregothnan Tea to create a fantastic buttery, crumbly Earl Grey fudge with notes of Bergamot.
Tregothnan Tea is the home of England’s first-ever homegrown tea and the current owner Lord Falmouth is a direct descendant of Earl Grey himself.
Annabel Percy-Hughes, marketing manager at Tregothnan Tea, said: “Tregothnan has a rich Cornish heritage dating back to 1334 and a reputation for pioneering botanical firsts. It is with great excitement we have collaborated with Buttermilk to create this Earl Grey Fudge. It is a celebration of the fine flavour of Bergamot synonymous with Earl Grey and a celebration of the premium products lovingly made in Cornwall.”
In another local collaboration, Buttermilk is launching a delicious Gin Fudge after the success of a limited edition Tarquin’s Gin fudge product made last year for Craft GinClub members.  Buttermilk worked with Southwestern Distillery to develop the product further and give it a permanent home within the range.
The gin is made using handpicked violets plus orange to create an aromatic infusion, and much like Buttermilk, Padstow-based Southwestern Distillery cooks up its products in copper stills over open flames in small batches.
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Tarquin Leadbetter, owner of Southwestern Distillery, said: “I’ve been buying Buttermilk fudge since I was a child, popping into the Padstow shop during school holidays, so it was a fantastic idea to collaborate with these brilliant confectioners that are only a few miles down the road from the distillery, and produce something really special.”
Tracy McDonnell Goad, director of Buttermilk, is proud of the family-run firm’s Cornish heritage and delighted to work with local manufacturers that share the same ethos.
She said: “These delicious treats are exceptionally tasty, a little bit different and are perfect with that other Cornish staple, Cream Tea. It’s been great to work with local producers to produce something fun and Cornish through and through.”
The two new flavours are available in 150g bags costing £3.99 from major stockists plus Buttermilk’s own shops in Port Isaac and Padstow. They can also be found in a number of independent farm shops, delis and online at www.buttermilk.co.uk

Wycombe Rye Lido

Two months to the day since my last outdoor swim, I took the plunge after work and visited Wycombe Rye Lido, which I’d only heard about the previous week thanks to the power of social media.

Since the end of 2016, the pool has been open all year round (take note, my local pool) and it’s located just off the A40 alongside the gorgeous park, and by the time I pitched up after work, it was dark and it felt like the calm before the storm. (It was.)

It cost £6.50 to get in and another 50p to park for two hours, but the lady on reception was kind enough to tell me that I could actually pay inside the building and didn’t need to venture back outside the stick the ticket in the car.

The changing rooms were mixed and fairly basic, but reassuringly hark back to the 1930s with high doors and a simple layout.  I went outside and was utterly bowled over by the pool. Thanks to fancy blue lighting, it looked awesome – like the kind of Instagram picture you might see of a high-end luxury hotel or the pool James Bond swims a length in before heading off to kill someone in Shanghai.


There was a head of steam coming off the bright blue water and just three other people in the pool. When swimming back down the pool, you’re treated to a view of people pacing the treadmill or taking in a kickboxing class, so it’s very motivating. I am not sure what the reverse view for the people doing the hard work is like though. 1

Although it is heated, it’s not stuffily hot, the temperature is patchy so it’s warm, cold, warm cold, warm, cold. But I like that  -it makes you feel alive without freezing you.  I swam a mile in the 33 yard pool, which I calcuated to be about 54 lengths; in that time the other three people got out and there was a change of lifeguard who cheerfully rebutted my apologies for making him stand outside in the cold for me on my lonesome.

Two other people did get in finally, making me feel better, but then it was time to get out – however, since there aren’t many other pools that are open at this time of year or that give off such a beautiful blue vibe, I imagine I’ll be back soon.

The Rye, off Bassetsbury Lane, High Wycombe, Buckinghamshire, HP11 1QX








West Berkshire Mencap’s raceday Friday 3rd March (Newbury Racecourse)

THE last few tables are still up for grabs at West Berkshire Mencap’s annual Charity Race Day at Newbury Racecourse on Friday, March 3.

The event is the charity’s biggest fundraising event of the year and helps raise much-needed funds for people with learning disabilities.

Organisers are urging local individuals, organisations and businesses to secure the remaining tables with the promise of a full day of racing plus a three-course lunch and afternoon tea.

The day includes a Champagne reception and a gourmet three-course lunch and wine. There is also the chance to bid for experiences in a silent auction.

West Berkshire Mencap chief executive Leila Ferguson said: “You don’t have to love horseracing to have a fantastic day with us.

“We can accept bookings of one to 10 people and all money raised will be used to support services for children and adults with learning disabilities.

“More than 250 places have already been snapped up and the event is supported by more than 20 local and national businesses.

“Simply by attending or donating a prize to our raffle, you will be helping to raise money for children and adults with learning disabilities in your local area.”

Contact the charity on (01635) 41464 or email info@wbmencap.org to book or if you would like to supply an auction prize.

Leading “free from” chocolate manufacturer Moo Free launches Easter egg range for 2017


  • Three varieties for 2017 – Original, Orange and Bunnycomb
  • No price increase on 2016 (£4.25) but each egg now includes 20g of chocolate buttons
  • Available from supermarkets, larger retailers and independent high street stores

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It wasn’t long ago that people with a dairy allergy or lactose intolerance had to go without chocolate eggs at Easter.

All that has changed now and there are delicious dairy-free and gluten-free alternatives widely available.

The market leader Moo Free has unveiled its line-up of Easter eggs for 2017 and there are three varieties available: Original, Orange and Bunnycomb all made with its award-winning chocolate.

All three Easter eggs have the same RRP as last year (£4.25), but the Easter Bunny has now delivered another 20g of chocolate buttons. They now all weigh 120g (up from 100g in 2016) without a price increase.

They will be available via supermarkets, larger retailers, independent high-street stores, and online retailers including http://www.dairyfreechocolates.com.

Mike Jessop, who founded Moo Free in 2010, along with his wife Andrea, said: “Moo Free replaces cows’ milk with rice milk to create a delicious, milk chocolate taste that doesn’t require a single cow.”

The chocolate from which the eggs and the buttons are made is a multi-award winning recipe, having most recently won the award for ‘Best Vegan Chocolate’ at the VegFest Awards, 2016. This accolade was voted for by the public.

Even better still, its award-winning dairy free chocolates are also free from gluten, wheat, lactose, soya and casein, completely vegetarian and vegan, and certified organic.

“Because we care about you and the environment, all our dairy free chocolates are made using organic and ethically sourced ingredients wrapped up in fun, environmentally-friendly packaging. Moo Free’s Easter eggs, unlike those of their rivals, deliver great taste and even better value,” added Mike.

Take a look at Moo Free’s website to find out more – http://www.moofreechocolates.com.


West Berkshire Crematorium raises £3,349 for Daisy’s Dream


Daisy’s Dream, a local charity that helps children who have been bereaved, has received a donation of £3,349 from West Berkshire Crematorium.

The crematorium, located just outside Thatcham, donated £3.071.52 from their recycled metals scheme plus a further £277.86 raised at the retiring collection at the Memorial Carol Service held in December.

West Berkshire Crematorium technician and chapel attendant, Mickey Maudsley, said: “When we get the opportunity to raise money, we always try to choose smaller, local charities that benefit the local community. We decided to support Daisy’s Dream who offer an important service to children across the whole of Berkshire that have been bereaved.”

Brandon Herselman, manager and registrar at the crematorium added: “It has been a pleasure to have supported Daisy’s Dream which helps families at such a difficult time. Demand for the charity’s services is increasing, so we’re delighted to announce that we have chosen Daisy’s Dream again as our charity for the year.”

Daisy’s Dream fundraiser Gemma Gittins, said: “We are so grateful to staff at the crematorium, plus everyone who donated. This fantastic sum will enable us to offer our professional support services to children and families affected by life threatening illness or bereavement.

“We hope to use this donation to offer one-to-one support as well as a number of therapeutic group events which give children the chance to meet with others facing similar circumstances.”

County Knowledge

Tamsin Machin from County Knowledge is a lady in the know! She can help you sort the wheat from the chaff when it comes to finding excellent local businesses. Here’s a piece we wrote together which you can find in this month’s Berkshire Life magazine….available in all good newsagents so you can read it in full, plus read about Hungerford, the best Berkshire Sunday lunches and 50 years of Newbury’s Watermill Theatre…..


Shoe shopping for the terrified

It’s back to school tomorrow, so naturally, I left shoe-shopping until today -the last possible minute, because of the sheer embarrassment of our last visit in 2013.

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We got away fairly lightly this time, although the shop lady was not remotely amused when I asked what bearing a child’s age has on their shoe size when small son was prompted to add his years into an iPad. “It’s to make it more interactive” she said a touch too patiently.

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Here’s what happened last time…..

This time last week, I took the McBaby to get a new pair of shoes. We got his feet measured, he wouldn’t sit still and then we left without buying them because the McBaby was messing about and nearly accidentally kicked a little boy. His mother growled at me as if he had kicked him, so we made a swift exit.

I then realised that I could order the shoes online. Then, all I’d have to do would be to run in, collect them and pay for them, meanwhile getting rich via a cashback site (this didn’t work in the slightest. I was promised 6% but received 20p. I’m terrible at maths, but 6% of £34 is not 20p, is it?)

Anyway, I think Clark’s deserves this money after our two performances.

We returned to the store, and I don’t know about where you are, but it’s pretty wet today, cue much jumping in puddles. The McBaby also partook of this activity (I’m joking; I didn’t) so had wet trousers, wet socks and wet shoes.

The woman in the shop asked if we “wanted any help on kids”, and then remarked that she recognised us from our last visit. I bet she did! I told her that we’d come to collect some shoes which she went to get while I wrung out the McBaby’s wet clothes. I then realised that the bag containing his spare clothes was in the car. (If you saw me a bit later drying a very small pair of pants, two socks and a pair of trousers in the Dyson hand drier in John Lewis, this is why).

She returned. The McBaby threw a pair of pink girls’ shoes at her. This is an insult in some countries, and not particularly pleasant in ours. I asked him to apologise.

“Sorry shoes”, he said, the little sod.

She then had to fit his shoes in his bare feet as his socks were so wet. “This isn’t normal procedure” she said. In my embarrassment, I assured her that it was all fine and hurriedly went to pay for them while the McBaby made a den under a couple of chairs. He then yelled; “I DONE A WEE”. Cue much frantic whispering between the lady and her colleague. Probably pointing out that it should be “I DID a wee” not “done”.

I sheepishly asked for some kitchen roll and apologised while on my knees cleaning up what was, to be fair, a minimal amount of wee.

“It’s fine” she said in that voice that tells you it really, really isn’t.

So McBaby, please don’t let your feet grow anymore, as we are not returning; I’m too embarrassed and we’re probably barred anyway.

Hampton Pool #lidochallenge2017



Welcome to 2017! We are all good intentions here and since midnight we haven’t had a drop of booze.

While reading about the number of lidos that have sadly closed in the last couple of decades, I decided to broaden my horizons – I have visited my local pool in Newbury  regularly (a little too regularly, the staff there might say), but thought it might be fun to check out more of the pools around the country.

In my last blog post, I mocked the practice of making new year’s resolutions (or more accurately, those new year’s resolutions that are too vague are likely to fail), so I’m going to call this a “challenge” rather than a “resolution.”  I am going to try to visit all of the lidos in England throughout 2017!

Number one was Hampton Pool. Happily it was open on new Year’s Day from 8am to 2pm. We arrived at about 12pm to find the car park full, the first clue that it was extremely busy in there.

It cost us (two adults and one child) £18.40, but it was worth it. After getting changed in the slightly old changing rooms, it was onto the 36m pool. Next to it, there’s a popular learner pool. The larger pool was full of people and complete with rising steam (it’s consistently about 28 degrees), resembling a scene from Iceland, and proved a reassuring sight to MrM who didn’t believe me when I told him the pool was heated.



The pool has two small slides (unfortunately closed today), and today there were three lanes roped off. I selected the slow lane which did exactly what it says on the tin, and plodded along for a mile – about 46 lengths. It’s a gorgeous pool, dating back to 1922, and has survived a turbulent history having been threatened with closure (and in fact, it was closed from 1981 to 1984).

High Street, Hampton, Middlesex, TW12 2ST
t: 020 8255 1116



New year’s resolutions by proxy


It’s a drag making New Year’s resolutions, isn’t it? It’s always the same vague promises of losing weight, saving money and being a better person.

So I’ve taken the liberty of making some up for my husband. You’re welcome MrM.

  1. “I will not buy anymore Bags for Life”. These cost 10p each, so we have about £147 worth of bags for life in the cupboard, near the front door and in the car. So honestly, my lovely spouse, there really is no need to buy three more every time you go shopping.


  1. “I will put empty bottles into the mystery green box outside the house that says ‘recycling’ on the side.”


  1. “I will not announce that there is no petrol in the tank on a morning when MrsM is driving and running late.”


  1. “I must get written permission from my wife before purchasing a spice of any description. I now understand that there is a kilogramme of peppercorns that we must use before I buy any more.”


  1. “Any random socks I leave on the floor must be paired before I abandon them.”


  1. “I will stop eschewing my wife’s offer of ironed shirts. I will stop promising to do it myself and then turning up to work looking like an 80-year-old pug.”


  1. “I will babysit whenever there is a Levellers gig within 200 miles of our house”.
  2.  “I will laugh at my wife’s jokes. Including what she thinks are funny lists”.

Happy new year and hope to see you on the other side!

2016-not all bad

  1. What a year. It’s been a year that has seen the loss of many beloved people and political turmoil, and to be honest, it’s not as if the bad news is going to stop coming magically when the pages of the calendar are turned to 2017. So. It’s worth reminding ourselves of the good things that happened in the past 12 months too.

On a personal note, we did a bit of travelling, caught up with great friends we hadn’t seen for ages and small son started school. We got out lots and did exercise, we went to a tonne of music gigs and festivals and saw family and even made it to the beach once in a while. But here are some of my highlights of the good (and eclectic) things that happened in 2016.

Leicester City  -until this year, I rarely admitted to being born in the East Midlands city. But the city seems to be on the up. They found a former King of England buried in a car park, but of course, it was the club’s fairytale rise to become Premier League winners that just defied expectations. When they started their campaign, Claudio Ranieri’s team were 5000-1 outsiders for the title, and their success was a major coup for the city, plus fans of Gary Lineker’s underpants. What made me smile was a sign during the victory parade that said: “Had a hunch we would win – Richard III.”


Beat the Street

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While Pokemon Go seized the headlines for getting people outside walking, I was lucky enough to be involved with a project that might rival it in terms of longevity. Started by an ingenious doctor, Beat the Street is a community-wide initiative to encourage people to walk more and to get outside together. It saw fantastic success this year in Reading, Birmingham, Wolverhampton and Liverpool. Bringing communities together, the rewards are happier, more active communities with real benefits in terms of reduced diabetes, less traffic and better mental health

Line of Duty – The quality of TV drama is unrecognisable compared to a few years ago and I often hear people talking about Happy Valley, The Missing and other series. For me, the stand out TV event of 2016 was the third series of Line of Duty. I’ll admit that I came across this Between the Lines-esque series on police corruption by accident when I saw an interview with the brilliant Adrian Dunbar and was quickly captivated by the incredible talk-talk-talk interview scenes. While extolling the virtues of walking, cycling and running with Beat the Street (see above), I spent hours sitting on my behind catching up quickly with the first two series. Apart from quiz shows and football matches, I have never spent so much time shouting at the TV or hating a character as much as I disliked the Caddy. Incredible TV!

Honourable mentions: Rake, Modern Family, and the return of Gilmore Girls.

Big Issue Kev – This made me cry about the unfairness of it all, and feel better about the world in equal measure. Despite being homeless, Newbury’s big-hearted Big Issue seller raised an incredible sum of £5000 for Children in Need.


Ragged Bear


Festival season doesn’t end in September! A new music festival called Ragged Bear launched this year and gave us the opportunity to see a line-up including Gaz Brookfield; the Devil’s Prefects; the Leylines; Wille and the Bandits and Neck. The next one is October 28th 2017!

West Berkshire Mencap –


At a time when funds are hard to come by, there was some generous acts to support the charity; staff at Stryker made 36 bikes in a team-building event and donated them to children. Then celebrity chef Daniel Galmiche became a patron of the charity and spent a day cooking salmon with people with learning disabilities to officially open the new training kitchen. Lorraine Chase – what a legend – supported the race day having flown in from heaven, or perhaps Luton airport.

Ultra Daddy – An amazing achievement and so exciting to be able to track my friend online as he swam across the Channel through night and day back in September. Thanks to regular videos and updates from his wife, you get to witness the sheer insanity of undertaking such a challenge – not only the pure physical hell, but the logistics of stopping for nutrients and what happens at the other end. An inspiration.

The Colour of Time- Newbury

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The Corn Exchange in Newbury, with funding from Greenham Common Trust and the Arts Council, has put on a fabulous feast of brilliant outdoor events. The Colour of Time was a homage to the Indian Holi festival and saw the town go crazy in a riot of colour. The lantern parade was a similarly beautiful event that brought the community together – for an hour or so, at least.

Step up 4 good – Greenham Common Trust organised a fantastic running event across Greenham Common to enable people to raise money for local projects. It was brilliant to see so many people turn out in the rain to take part, to help small son to put his shoes back on, such was his enthusiasm in the mud, plus to see a lad with disabilities cross the line.

So, don’t invest too much in the idea that 2017 will “be a better year”. In some ways, it will, and in some ways it won’t. Famous people will still die and there will be shenanigans in all walks of life from politics, to music, to culture, to people pushing in front of you at the supermarket. There will also be good times too, so hold your family tight and appreciate the good things. Happy new year xxxx