The Red House, Marsh Benham and The Castle Pub in Donnington, Newbury announce West Berkshire Mencap as their charity of the year


Two popular West Berkshire pubs have announced West Berkshire Mencap as their charity of the year for 2018.

The Red House at Marsh Benham and the newly-renovated Castle Pub in Donnington have organised a series of fundraising events plus on-going support for the local charity that helps people with learning disabilities.

The collaboration will see the pubs make a donation to West Berkshire Mencap for each bottle of still or sparkling water sold at both locations plus a pound from each sale of the two pubs’ ‘West Berkshire Mencap dish of the day’.

Additionally, there is an exciting programme of events planned for the year including a regular fundraising dinner. There will also be monthly quiz nights and these have already raised £213.

Chef Patron Laurent Lebeau said: “We wanted to do something that would really benefit the local community. West Berkshire Mencap seemed a perfect fit, and their enthusiasm for our initiatives means we can maximise the funds raised. We are really looking forward to working with West Berkshire Mencap and raising as much money for them as we can”.

Leila Ferguson, CEO of West Berkshire Mencap, said: “We are so excited to be working with the Red House and its new sister pub The Castle in Newbury. The team at both locations has come up with some hugely inventive ideas and ways in which they can help us raise much-needed funds to help local people with learning disabilities and their families.

“As a food fan myself, I am delighted that we have struck up this partnership and can see great opportunities for working together and mutual support over the next 12 months and beyond.”

The Red House is run by Chef Patron Laurent Lebeau and his team who have recently taken on the Castle Pub in Donnington which opened in November after refurbishment.


Buttermilk launches Strawberry Bellini fudge in time for Valentine’s Day

Buttermilk-14Cornwall’s much-loved family confectioner Buttermilk has launched the perfect flavour for that special someone.

You can now enjoy Strawberry Bellini fudge – the perfect treat for the one you love this Valentine’s Day and Mothers’ Day.

The new handmade sweet treat is inspired by everyone’s favourite cocktail. Its unique fizzy and crumbly texture combines a strawberry and prosecco fudge topped with white chocolate and popping candy.

Gorgeously creamy, these buttery, crumbly chunks of loveliness are studded with sweet-yet-sharp freeze-dried strawberries, flavoured with white chocolate and a little dash of Prosecco, and give your taste buds a surprising tingle.

All in all, it’s a sumptuous, fruity, fizzy treat that’s perfect as a gift or for nibbling alongside a glass of prosecco and a strawberry or two.

If you eat the packet before you’ve handed it over to the one you love, then don’t worry. Buttermilk is also launching a fabulous Strawberry Bellini Easter Egg alongside its two luxury Easter eggs; Caramel Sea Salt Milk Chocolate and Dark Chocolate and Honeycomb Easter Egg. The Strawberry Bellini Easter Egg is infused with freeze-dried strawberry pieces and a little popping surprise. Inside, you’ll find a further helping of Buttermilk’s new Strawberry Bellini Fudge.

The 100g Strawberry Bellini Fudge box is available at selected outlets including Lakeland and at priced at £2.99. A 150g box priced at £3.99 is available at Waitrose.


About Buttermilk Artisan Confectionery

A family-run business, born and bred in Cornwall, a love for everything sweet has been inspiring Buttermilk’s artisan confectionery for over half a century. Their story began in 1964 with the opening of their first shop in Padstow, and although demand for their fudge has grown and grown, their award-winning treats are still lovingly handmade by craft confectioners. Staying true to their heritage, the skilled team at Buttermilk can still be found using traditional copper pans over open flames, carefully blending ingredients to create indulgent, award-winning treats.

School swimming

We’ve been travelling A LONG way to get decent swimming lessons so I was interested to see that the school is now offering weekly sessions.

Swimming is one of my favourite things in the world. However, indoor pools are not. Dirty changing rooms, shouting teachers, boiling hot pools – I try so hard to keep my dislike under my hat so as not to put small son off.



Job one was to put small son’s name onto his towel, swimming costume and goggles. I got out the needle and thread, sat down with an old towel and discovered that someone had got there first. My mum had already sewn my name onto the towel. Near enough, that’ll do.

Then I replied to the school that I would help the children get back onto the coach after the lesson. I tend to be at the leisure centre at that time anyway for a class so asked what I needed to do.

“Your job will be to keep the children away from the vending machine” came the reply.  Now that is not my forte. I have trouble with keeping away from vending machines myself, but I said I’d do my best.

On the day, the children arrived earlier than anticipated. I was still red-faced and sweaty from my class, and despite every one of my muscles aching, I helped some children get dressed and sent them off to get yelled at by the swimming teacher.

Today’s session was just about putting them into groups according to ability. Two at a time, they were asked to swim a width.  The boy sitting next to small son didn’t budge when it was their turn, so small son jumped in with a massive smile on his face and started swimming while the swimming teacher screeched at him to stop.

Then they got out again and we were treated to the chaotic sight of more than 30 children getting dressed. Small son was surprisingly swift and the head teacher said we could go.  I picked up his trainers and put them in my bag and we turned to go. A child stopped us and asked us for help finding her trainers.

“Of course”, we said, pointing at every shoe and asking if they were hers, before the head teacher said, once again, that we could go.  Halfway home, I got my keys from under a pair of trainers in my bag.  But if small son is wearing his, whose are these?

We sprinted back to the pool and I presented the shoes to the girl, as discreetly as I could. “Where were they?” shouted a bunch of relieved parents. “Er, in my bag”, I said.

“But why would you do that?”

“I don’t know – a mum’s tidying up reflex I think”.

At least we won’t be invited back….20171029_104030.jpg

Calla-Coll for hair, nails and skin

Hampshire beauty therapist Lynne Baker from Calla Salon has seen five years of hard work and investment come to fruition this month as her new collagen supplement drink has been launched onto the market.

Lynne, who also set up retail and trade beauty therapist business Calla Distribution, is so well regarded in the beauty industry that she’s often known as “Lynne the Skin”. She is also a former registered nurse who came up with the idea for a new high-potency supplement drink called Calla-Coll when faced with pain and additional problems caused by osteoarthritis.

Looking for alternatives to surgery with which to help the joint pain, she searched for a natural product that would help and hit upon the idea of a collagen supplement. After extensive research and clinical trials into the benefits of collagen on the body, she started to formulate the high-potency drink with the help of a specialist lab in Sweden using bovine collagen. 

Containing award-winning Pure Peptide and Hyaluronic Acid, Calla-Coll’s ingredients also include 10,000mg of Type I and Type III collagen plus Vitamin C, Vitamins B5, B6, B7 and B12, Copper Gluconate, and Silica. Just 25ml a day can help give the body a wide range of health benefits including:

• Boosting natural collagen production
• Promoting smoother, plumper, brighter skin
• Strengthening hair and nails
• Reducing joint pain associated with arthritis
• Increasing joint mobility
• Helping with healing

Lynne said: “Once you reach the age of 20, the body’s natural collagen production begins to slow down, resulting in lines and wrinkles and wear and tear on the entire body.

“Most of the time, skincare is limited by the fact that there is only so much it can do when applied to the outside of the skin. It can only really be at its most effective when it can start work from the inside.

She added: “We’re all living longer, but that’s no good if you’re ageing badly. It struck me that we need to take more preventative measures to help our health, rather than waiting until things start to hurt.

“I wanted to create something that would mean that people could stop taking painkillers and anti-inflammatories and to help people to repair the body. I researched what happens to skin when it ages and it was evident that helping the production of collagen would help. It’s everywhere in your body; it’s the ‘scaffolding’ that holds your body together – it’s not found in plants.”
Calla-Coll has a pleasant berry taste and can be either taken on its own or added to a smoothie to help with the body’s production of collagen. She added: “People don’t want to take tablets or have to spend time mixing powder with water. I wanted it to be simple and pleasant, plus to ensure that the bottles are as ecologically sound as possible.”

The product launch sees a dream come true for Lynne who knew from a young age that she wanted to be a beauty therapist but had successful careers in both nursing and IT before she launched Calla Salon in 2008.

It’s now available online or from selected beauty salons, hair salons, osteopaths, personal trainers, and nutritional therapists Since its launch, it’s already proved popular among beauty experts and exceeds all European and Swedish standards. The collagen is also sourced from organic, free range, grass fed, and non-GMO cows. Early anecdotal evidence has shown that the product can help the health of gums, nails and hair, reducing blood sugars, as well as general health.




New Year’s resolutions often include doing more exercise and a Pamber Heath businesswoman is inviting people to embrace the great outdoors every month as an antidote to the stresses of modern life.

Corrine Thomas is inviting people of all ages to her Fresh Air Fridays sessions; a new movement that aims to encourage people to step away from their computers and out into the fresh air.

A sedentary lifestyle can increase the chances of cardiovascular disease, type 2 diabetes and some cancers and with that in mind, Corrine has been the facilitator for North Hampshire for a year, running monthly meetings in both Basingstoke and Pamber Heath.  The idea of the group is to combine walking, wellbeing and mindfulness in a three-hour session, no matter what the weather.

Corrine also works as a career coach and specialist in NLP (Neuro Linguistic Programming) for children and teenagers and realised that there was real pressure on people of all ages from the demands of modern life.

She says: “Many of us live busy and hectic lives, rushing around trying to meet the next deadline, whilst thinking about what’s for dinner or worrying about whether we’re spending enough time with our families. Time for our own development and wellbeing comes way down the list.
“This was me not long ago, I spent most of my life in a state of overwhelm, was stressed and had lost the ability to be creative. I’m a trainer and coach for both adults and children and often hear my clients expressing the same frustrations. “Something I do love is being outdoors, taking time and space in the beautiful surroundings of nature always enables me to clear my head, see things from a different perspective and re-connect with my inner creativity. I often solve difficult and nitty gritty problems that are bothering me after time outside. “When I found Fresh air Fridays I was delighted, it gives me time every month to re-connect with who I truly am. A few hours focusing on my own wellbeing leaves me refreshed and full of energy, so I can get back to the life I love.

Corrine decided to get involved with fresh air coaching to improve productivity and well-being and there is plenty of evidence to suggest that we are more successful and happier when we spend time in a natural environment.

“There’s a real joy in connecting with nature and celebrating its simplicity. It just allows me to leave behind a busy life and connect with something so simple. I love connecting with my members and the community spirit it brings,” she adds.

The Fresh Air Fridays concept was originally set up by Rosie Dixey and Ruth Steggles who wanted to set up a self-development community that would take place outside.

Ruth says: “I love being outside, walking and group coaching when I realised that these things could be combined with amazing results, Fresh Air Fridays was born. In order to achieve maximum health and wellness we need time in nature, as well as to move our bodies and still our minds.  These are the underlying principles on which Fresh Air Fridays has been built.”

Rose adds: “We explore a different self-development theme each month and each session is structured to allow time to relax, time to reflect and time to create steps to take in your daily life; all whilst being outdoors in lovely surroundings.”

Sessions take place across the whole of the UK and Corrine’s North Hampshire sessions take place twice a month; one is on a Friday around Pamber Heath and Silchester with a second on a Saturday (“Any day can feel like a Friday!”, she jokes), along the Basingstoke canal near Hook.

Her current attendees range from the self-employed to retired people and all have noticed that the walks can be game-changing.

Katie, said: “Fresh air Friday walks gives me a regular space in the beautiful outdoors to enjoy nature, with like-minded people in a calm and relaxing manner, helped by the breathing exercise and meditation, where I can reflect on my life and purpose. Thank you Corrine for facilitating these sessions so well and bringing healthy tasty cakes each time too!”

Kim said: “I love walking and I have a passion for personal development. Fresh Air Fridays combines both of these perfectly and the session is a lovely way to spend time in nature. The sessions have provided an opportunity to meet other people who are willing to listen and share their experiences with me. I look forward to the session as it allows me to take a break from my busy life and gives me the time and energy to fill myself up. I always come away from the sessions feeling energised and inspired. Corrine is a skilled facilitator who brings a lovely sense of humour and wisdom to the sessions. I find the sessions nurturing, creative and fun.”

The first Fresh Air Fridays session is free; subsequent sessions cost £25 or £250 for the year. For more information, click onto


For more information, or to speak to Corrine, tweet Margaret at @newburymummy 

There’s only one you

The school had a lovely idea for celebrating every child’s individuality…and it really demonstrated that this is not an area that small son needs to worry about.

The idea was that every parent and child would paint a fish together and the finished work would form part of a mosaic. I traipsed to school in the rain and was greeted at the door by a friendly boy who knew which child to fetch and returned with an impatient small son.

We got to work with a pebble, some paint, a paintbrush and small son completed the mission with two brushstrokes.

“Done”, he said and got up to return to the classroom.

“Hang on,” I said, doing my best to sound positive while the parents and children around me worked together harmoniously. People had their heads together in partnership, carefully choosing paint and designing fish.  I could barely make small son sit down.

“That is not a fish”, I tried to say.  There was literally an artist next to us. A woman who makes a living doing this.  Hers had a face and fins. Ours didn’t. “It looks like a tie dye t-shirt.” she said, trying to be generous.

“But we were watching a film. A Disney film,” protested small son. He ran off, leaving me to sit alone. I think the head teacher felt sorry for me and she said I could take him home if I wanted.

He had football, so I thought I’d continue to mooch around.  I must have looked so hopeless that one of the very posh mums actually spoke to me.

“Where is the paper towel”, she asked.

“In the bathroom?” I suggested.

“I can’t possibly go in there!”, she looked horrified, so I went in for her to fetch it before deciding that I might as well as well get small son ready for football. This task usually takes ages, but is completed in minutes today. More waiting.

More waiting.

Then football.

A child kicks a ball and it accidentally hits small son who thinks this is a deliberate act and starts howling. I take him home. There’s ‘only one you’ I think to myself.

On the tiles at The Vyne

Small son and I both enjoyed more than 300 years of history come to life when we were up on the roof at the Vyne near Basingstoke the other day.

The National Trust property is spending well over £5m on fixing the roof of this Tudor mansion and have installed a frankly incredible rooftop walkway allowing visitors to see the layers of history as they take the roof off and put it back on.


There’s a lift that takes you above the roof level so you can peer down at the work that is being carried out. A comprehensive walkway takes you all around the roof so you can see the work as it unfolds on the chimneys, tiles and stacks. Small son was impressed with that, but what was a very nice touch was the placing Lego workmen that you can find dotted around.

We also loved the opportunity to throw money down the drain – literally! Guests are invited to throw a pound coin (or smaller change as we didn’t have any!) down a drain pipe and you can hear it trundling its way down to the ground. Extraordinarily satisfying and we weren’t the only ones who thought so as this little invention has brought in something like £12,000!

As well as the chance to see the improvements as they happen, there’s a fabulous view over the estate and you can also design your own tile that will go up on the roof and should be up there for the next 300 years at least!

Highly recommend a visit to the roof and there are also some talks from the project manager over the next couple of months:

Making a splash at Thames Lido, Reading


If you know me (or if you’ve had a look at my hair), you’ll know that I am always looking for new places to swim. I find disused lidos and abandoned outdoor swimming pools extremely depressing – you just can’t help but think of all the history and memories that the place retains.


So when a pool is brought back from the brink, it’s truly cause for celebration. And that’s why I’ve kept a keen eye on the developments in Reading on the site of the former Kings Meadow Lido. The team behind the hugely successful Bristol Lido have now worked their magic on the site in Reading and have opened a beautiful little oasis called Thames Lido.


The site is right next to the Thames and dates back to 1902 when it was the ‘Ladies Swimming Bath’. Sadly the pool closed in 1974, but after three years of building work, it’s now a contemporary spa and restaurant.


I was so keen to get in to see it that I asked to be shown around by a lovely staff member who didn’t mind me oooohing and aaaahing all over the place.  It’s such a beautiful building and probably best to think of it as  an affordable spa rather than an outdoor pool. With a nod to its past and touches such as beautiful tiles, it’s bang up to date with the pool at the centre with the seating area around it.  You can book massages and other treatments and even have a Christmas party there. Thank you to everyone involved for preserving this bit of history and see you at the deep end!




Hungerford Literary Festival

If I could have attended all of the events on the programme, I would have done. I was lucky enough to get to three of the Hungerford Literary Festival events and without exception, each was exhilarating.

The theme of the festival was ‘journeys’ and these ranged from the local to the far-flung.  The first I saw on the Saturday morning was travel writer and journalist Tom Fort who gave a light-hearted talk on village life.


“You may be expecting a jolly jaunt in the style of Penelope Keith meets Bill Bryson, but this book is about something completely different,” he said.

 The book is a must-read for anyone who wants to preserve their village’s life while remaining modern and vital. This is an author who has written entertaining books about the A303 and also on lawnmowers, so it was great to see his equally witty, but forward-thinking take on development.

The next event we attended was travel supremo Alastair Sawday who talked on his new memoir Travelling Light; Journeys among special people and places. And while there were occasional references to his highlights of a career in globe-trotting, the talk focussed mainly on responsible tourism; highly topical in light of the recent backlash against tourists in Barcelona and Venice.

Last, but definitely not least was Jules Mountain who provided the finale to the Hungerford Literary Festival, with a nail-biting talk on his book Aftershock.

This was a fascinating, yet understated talk from a man who has cheated death on more than one occasion. After undergoing chemotherapy for cancer, the plucky engineer decided that he would put his physical ability to the test with an attempt at climbing Mount Everest in 2015. Midway through the expedition’s ascent, an avalanche hit, triggered by the infamous earthquake that devastated Nepal. He returned the following year and this time successfully reached the summit.




Armed with a slideshow and the actual suit and oxygen tank he used, this was an exhilarating  talk. It would have been hard to exit the Town Hall on that Sunday night without being inspired by this extraordinary story of survival and resilience. Profits from his book go to a cancer charity.



Hungerford has a post office again!



It’s been an interesting few months since the shutters came down in Martins on the high street. If you wanted to post a parcel or use any other post office facilities, you could head to Kintbury (which meant a bumpy cycle ride or two-hour there-and-back-again walk along the canal path) or Shalbourne; or use the makeshift post office in the library.

While it was kind of the people who ran this to provide the service, the hours were limited to a couple of lunchtimes a week and every time I tried it, I was met with a huge queue, an IT glitch, the inability to print a receipt, or annoyingly, a note on the door saying there was no service that day.


So when I saw a man on stilts striding up and down the High STreet at the weekend, I crossed my fingers that it was good news. It was! The post office is back! I can eBay again!