Speaking line-up for Oxfordshire Business Expo

The speaker line-up for the new Oxford Business Expo has been confirmed with accountancy advice, selling skills and LinkedIn masterclasses on offer for local businesses.

The event takes place on Thursday, 11th April from 11am to 4pm at the Whately Hall Hotel, Horse Fair in Banbury.

The event is free for visitors and provides the opportunity to network and meet suppliers, and potential clients from all over Oxfordshire and beyond.

The speaking timetable includes accountancy advice from the event’s main sponsor Whitley Stimpson. Motivational speaker Gary Outrageous will be showing people how to boost their face-to-face selling skills with hypnosis plus there’s a Keto Fitness Club – Couch to Keto workshop and a LinkedIn masterclass from IMC Pro Solutions. The workshops programme will then be topped off with a speed networking session hosted by the Professional Introducer Network (PIN) network.

Organiser Sheila Smith said: “We look forward welcoming you whether you’re a veteran of the business world or relatively new to networking.

“There is a range of advice on offer from our keynote speakers and great variety from our exhibitors who will be showcasing the very best of what the local business community has to offer.”

For further information and to book please contact Sheila Smith via www.eventssmith.co.uk/oxfordshire-business-expo-april-2019

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Wildlife Photographer of the Year exhibition at The Base

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We made it to The Base, the new arts centre at Greenham Business Park!

I was keen to visit the Natural History Museum’s Wildlife Photographer of the Year Exhibition which is on tour at Greenham until 28 April.

We made it at 3.59pm – last entry is at 4pm – but it was worth being windswept! The images were incredible, although the first ones were saw were fairly brutal – a monkey holding its dead baby and another featuring animals holding a baboon’s face werequite disturbing.

But nature is as cruel as it is beautiful and these 100 pictures certainly were beautiful. The competition attracted more than 45,000 entries and were shortlisted down to 100 – can’t imagine the magnitude of this job.

We were amazed by the amazing variety of the pictures and DS is already thinking very differently about the natural world and the impact us humans have on it.


Oxfordshire business expo coming to Banbury on 11th April

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  • Free to visit
  • Just £195 for exhibitors
  • Event takes place on 11th April 11-4pm at the Whately Hall Hotel in Banbury


Oxfordshire businesses are invited to a brand-new business expo taking place on Thursday, 11th April from 11am to 4pm at the Whately Hall Hotel, Horse Fair in Banbury.

The event is organised by Sheila Smith, who is the founder of the successful Northamptonshire Business Expo, which was launched in 2014 and regularly attracts thousands of visitors. Sheila aims to build on this success and to bring it to neighbouring counties.

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Oxfordshire’s expo is free for delegates and as well as networking, there are free workshops designed to help business owners to develop their skills and presentations on the latest insight. For exhibitors, a stand costs just £195, plus sponsorship opportunities are available.

Sheila said: “Exhibiting is a great opportunity to showcase what you do to the right people and generate more good-quality sales leads than other sales tools. Our events help to generate leads the old-fashioned way with face-to-face interaction and we are committed to delivering a lively, buzzing event for every type of business relationship, network, engage with suppliers and deepen their business education by attending our one-day events.”

She added: “We have had the privilege of working with many businesses over the years who have enjoyed great success at these expos. As a result, they have repeatedly booked with us and in a lot of cases, have followed the events out of their own county, expanding the area in which their business trades. If you invest in a stand, we recommend that you make the most of it and let all of followers know you will be there by promoting it on your website, social media and marketing channels.”

Sheila has had over 25 years’ experience in sales at every level and is well known for having a ‘can-do’ attitude to business. She has a proven track record in delivering events to a very high standard and her flexible, adaptable approach enables her to smoothly manage any occasion. Something which she has always promised and consistently maintained is her fresh approach to every occasion to which she tailors to fit your exact specification and budget.

For further information and to book please contact Sheila Smith via www.eventssmith.co.uk/oxfordshire-business-expo-april-2019


Buttermilk’s new FREE FROM Easter eggs

  • Confectioner introduces two new ‘free from’ Easter eggs – Choc Honeycomb and Choc Orange (185g)
  • Gluten free, wheat free, dairy free and suitable for vegans
  • Exclusively available in Sainsbury’s supermarkets from 24th February – RRP £5.99


Everyone can enjoy Easter now that Buttermilk has unveiled new ‘free from’ Easter eggs for 2019 in Choc Honeycomb and Choc Orange flavours.

With strong demand for the confectioner’s original collection of Easter eggs, Buttermilk has now developed two new ‘free from’ flavours so that so that no one needs to miss out owing to dietary restrictions. The new eggs are free from dairy, gluten and wheat and are suitable for vegans.

The Buttermilk Choc Honeycomb Easter egg is made from alternative milk chocolate with honeycomb pieces and decorated with a white chocolate alternative. Meanwhile, the Buttermilk Choc Orange is made with an alternative milk chocolate flavoured with orange oil and decorated with an orange and white chocolate alternative.

Each is 185g and with an RRP of £5.99 available exclusively at Sainsbury’s supermarkets.

Buttermilk managing director Tracy McDonnell Goad said: “This is a very proud moment in the history of Buttermilk. We’ve been creating delicious treats for more than 50 years so it’s fitting that we can now extend our range for anyone with dietary requirements.”

It’s open! MrsB’s Kitchen Cafe open in Faraday Road, Newbury



A dream has come true for West Berkshire caterer Emma Benson who has officially opened the doors to her new café in Faraday Road, Newbury.

MrsB’s Kitchen Café is located in the former Crescent Signs warehouse and the venue has been turned into a welcoming space which is now open for breakfast, lunch and fabulous coffee seven days a week.

Mrs Benson has run a catering firm in Newbury for more than 15 years and felt the time was right to open the doors to her new venue for café customers. Each of the 30 seats inside the café gives a fantastic view of the activity in the kitchen, so customers are truly at the heart of the business.

Breakfast comprises homemade pastries, sausage rolls and bacon sandwiches while the lunch menu changes daily with salad boxes available to eat onsite or take away. Mrs Benson is particularly passionate about catering for a range of dietary requirements including vegetarian, vegan and dairy-free options.

Mrs Benson said: “I am thrilled to finally be opening the doors to Mrs B’s Kitchen Café as it’s been a dream for many years. I’m so grateful to everyone who has supported us along the way, particularly my family and our fantastic team of staff.”

As well as informal dining, there is a meeting room that can be hired and a bespoke room for event tastings. Mrs B’s Kitchen Café has a minimal waste policy and aims to be as sustainable as possible.

Mrs Benson said: “After much anticipation, we are finally able to throw up the shutters and show you what we have done with a big empty warehouse. We offer wholesome lunches and salad boxes that will keep you going, whether you’re a regular who lives nearby or an office worker taking a break from work. Everything is made from scratch on site and ingredients are sourced locally where possible. The menus change every day, so you’ll be able to see what the specials are on social media or on the chalk boards outside.”

Click onto www.mrsb.kitchen for more information and opening hours.


Cleveland Pools in Bath

I still love you Newbury Lido, but I have to admit that my head has been turned!

Bath’s tourist office is currently running tours to a hidden gem – Cleveland Pools. This is an outdoor pool that dates back to 1815, but has sat unloved since 1984. A group of passionate locals plan to restore this Georgian gem which will be heated in the summer and then remain open (unheated) through the winter, with a scheduled opening date of Easter 2021.

There are weekly tours taking place every Tuesday morning from the tourist office, and it just so happened that I was lucky enough to be the only person.  Undeterred, my amazing guide Sally gave me a personal walking tour through the streets of Bath to the site, sharing her incredible insights and stories along the way. A particular favourite was hearing about the Superintendent of the pool in the 1860s, diving into the pool from 100ft up, wearing a top hat!

If you love swimming, Bath, or even heritage, then I highly recommend this tour. And I’ll see you at the pool in 2021!


Buttermilk unveils its 2019 range of fudge-filled Easter Eggs

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  • Caramelised Cacao Nib Easter Egg (235g RRP £11.99) – available Waitrose and independents
  • Caramel Sea Salt Easter Egg– 235g, RRP £9.99 – available Waitrose and independents
  • Milk Chocolate Honeycomb Easter Egg – 235g, RRP £9.99 – available Waitrose and independents
  • Strawberry Bellini Easter Egg 235g, RRP £9.99 – available Waitrose and independents
  • Hot Cross Bun fudge (100g) RRP £2.99 available in Sainsburys
  • Launch date – 15th February

The good eggs at Buttermilk have Easter 2019 cracked with their latest range of fudge-filled treats!

The Cornish confectioners entered the Easter market last year and since then have won a Great Taste award and lots of positive feedback. One customer got in touch to say: “It’s the best Easter egg I have ever eaten!”

This year the range has been expanded and each product will be made from single origin Colombian chocolate to ensure the highest quality.

Also new for 2019, Buttermilk has launched a Milk Chocolate Honeycomb Easter Egg (235g, RRP £9.99). This is an enticing milk chocolate egg with broken honeycomb pieces and hand decorated with a white chocolate drizzle. Inside, there’s a large serving of light and crunchy honeycomb, dipped in milk chocolate.

Also new for 2019 is Buttermilk’s Caramelised Cacao Nib Easter Egg (235g, RRP £11.99). This premium Easter egg is a must for dark chocolate lovers and is made with 70% single origin dark chocolate and cacao nibs, filled with dark chocolate clusters. Inside there’s a generous helping of indulgent, dark chocolate cacao nib clusters.

In addition to the new products, two offerings from last year’s range are back! This year, the best-selling Caramel Sea Salt Easter Egg (235g, RRP £9.99) returns after drawing acclaim from customers and professional taste testers alike.  The milk chocolate and sea salt Easter egg is decorated with delicious butterscotch chips and inside there’s a large serving of buttery Caramel Sea Salt fudge which crumbles and melts in the mouth.

The Strawberry Bellini Easter Egg (235g, RRP £9.99) was also a huge hit last year and won a Great Taste two-star award.  This beautiful and elegant white chocolate egg is infused with strawberry pieces and filled with Strawberry Bellini fudge. The fudge is topped with white chocolate, strawberries and a little popping surprise to create a fruity and fizzy treat.

The Easter eggs are available at Waitrose and independent shops, plus from Buttermilk shops in Cornwall and online.

As well as Easter eggs, Buttermilk has a seasonal Hot Cross Bun fudge that is popular at Easter (100g RRP £2.99) and another Great Taste award winner!  This tasty fudge is packed full of juicy raisins and a little bit of fragrant fruit peel to get that delicious bun taste. It’s then broken by hand.  Available in Sainsburys and at www.buttermilk.co.uk


Happy 90th birthday to Tintin!

“Billions of blistering blue barnacles!”

Quoting Tintin’s friend Captain Haddock, small son starts running when he sees the angular frontage of Musee Hergé. After taking the train to a small town outside Brussels, and walking through a grey shopping centre, Tintin’s profile, peering into the distance is a welcome sight, whether you’re a fan or not.

With his enduring energy, distinctive quiff and exuberance, it’s hard to believe that comic strip hero Tintin first appeared in 1919, captivating children from several generations. The 90th anniversary of his first appearance as a comic strip in Le Petit Vingtieme seemed like a good excuse to take my Tintin obsessed son to the spiritual home of everything Georges Remi, Tintin’s creator.

The building is quite a sight, with high ceilings and angular colourful walls, complete with poured concrete floors and feels like a fitting tribute to Herge’s massive creative output.


The first room shows his early life and his early illustrations which give a flavour of what was to come, leading into another room on Herge’s advertising work, before you descend a floor and find yourself immersed in the world of Tintin.


There’s lots to see, and small son wasn’t sure where to start. There’s plenty of pictures, early drafts and facts about the creator and his most famous work, including info on the characters -not just his beloved dog Snowy (known as Milou in the original) and constant friends Captain Haddock, Professor Calculus plus ne’er do well ‘twins’ Thompson and Thomson, but also the wealth of background characters that appear in the 24 books.

We had incredible fun having a picture taken in the midst of a Tintin scene, and there are interactive elements, plus models of the shark submarine from Red Rackham’s Treasure and a rocket model, used as the inspiration for Destination Moon and Explorers on the Moon.


Although small son was eyeing up a 5,000 Euro Tintin model in the gift shop, we managed not to spend anything in here. It’s still worth a browse as is the on-site café. We both danced back to the train to Brussels eager to re-read the books.


We stayed at the Hilton Bruxelles City, just north of the centre after a painless Eurostar journey from London. Travelling around Brussels is affordable and easy, with efficient trams, trains and buses, reasonably clear signage and plenty of helpful English speakers around. We stayed overnight before taking the train on a Sunday to the small town of Louvain-la Nouvelle, not to be confused with Louvain (Leuven). We’re grateful to Sally Murray Travel Counsellors for doing all the bookings for us!

Musee Herge is giving a day of free entry on Sunday, 6th January, but admission is usually 12 Euros for adults. Closed Mondays.

Blackberry Cottage Christmas puddings for everyone this festive season!


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Blackberry Cottage have launched their Christmas puddings for the 2018 festive season, including one suitable for most dietary requirements.

The ‘free from’ Christmas pudding is free from gluten, dairy, egg, nut and soya with no added refined sugar. Each is handmade in small batches, using juicy currants, sultanas, raisins which is steeped in brandy, then combined with the spices and the rest of the ingredients.

Her Christmas puddings are handmade and come in three more flavours:

The ale and carrot Christmas pudding uses a traditional old recipe with ale and carrots, handmade in small batches.

After steeping the juicy currants, sultanas, raisins in ale, they’re combined with carrots, spices and the rest of the ingredients.

The rum cask cider Christmas pudding is made of cider-soaked fruit, handmade in small batches. The cider is produced by a local cider maker, who use a variety of eating, cooking and crab apples mainly from within West Berkshire, which has been fermented and matured in oak rum barrels.

The Stout Christmas pudding is full of stout soaked fruit, handmade to an old family recipe.  After steeping the juicy currants, sultanas, raisins and figs in stout they’re mixed with the rest of the ingredients including a special pudding spice mix.

Each of the four is steamed for six hours and wrapped before being left to mature before being wrapped in muslin and finished with a pretty ribbon. All four come in two sizes 450g (£8) and 900g (£15).

Kate will be selling these at food festivals around Berkshire and can also be ordered online at www.blackberrycottagefayre.co.uk

Kate has also launched her unique cookbook Blackberry Cottage: Cakes with Secret Ingredients from Aubergine to Zucchini. The book draws on her unique expertise and the thousands of cakes she has made through her award-winning business.

The recipes include incredible combinations such as savoy cabbage and mocha torte to Jerusalem artichoke, mango and lime cake – all delicious with the vegetables adding to the texture and moisture.  There are festive options for Christmas such as sweet potato mince pies and a delicious and unusual turnip Yule log.

Cakes with Secret Ingredients from Aubergine to Zucchini is priced at £24.99 including postage and packaging via www.blackberrycottagefayre.co.uk and independent bookshops.

Additionally, if you’re looking for a bespoke present for a foodie, Kate offers vouchers for her courses throughout 2019, ranging from ‘Winter comfort’ courses to ‘Spring Sweetness’.

Click onto https://www.blackberrycottagefayre.co.uk/product-category/courses/

How to avoid selling the family home to pay for care

We’ve all heard the traumatic stories of people being forced to sell their family homes to pay for astronomical care fees. The subject of elderly care, writing a will and what happens to our estate when we die is never an easy one, but with just a bit of planning, unnecessary fees and a lot of stress can be avoided.

Sam Francis of Assured Wills is an expert in this field and helps families to protect their estates to ensure they can pass as much as possible onto their families.

He says: “Fees for end-of-life care are affecting more ordinary families than ever before. In the past, few gave much thought to having to pay for care fees as they were unlikely to live long enough for this to be a problem. Nowadays, the burden for financing social care has now fallen to the individual who requires it, and the local authority where they live.

“The average cost of a week’s care in a residential home is now nearly £1,000, so it doesn’t take long before you lose significant wealth to pay for nursing care.”

  • If your estate is below £14,520, then the local authority will pay for your care.
  • If you have between £14,250 and £23,250, then you will pay a proportion of the cost of your care on a sliding scale.
  • However, any savings, investments and assets over £23,250 mean that you will pay 100% of your own care should you require it.
  • If you own your home and, by taking residential care, you will be leaving it empty, then the value of the house will be included as an asset that can be sold to pay for the care.

According to Mr Francis there are three important steps to protecting your estate and your home when you die. These are perfectly legal and accepted in estate planning.

The first is to ‘sever the tenancy’. Usually people buy together as a Joint Tenancy meaning they own the property as a couple. This meant that should either of them die, the remaining partner will own the whole property.

If you sever the tenancy means each has a 50% share and if one partner dies, they can pass their share in their will to someone other than the surviving spouse. The process of Severing the Tenancy is straightforward and involves each of them signing a written statement and submitting a form to the Land Registry.

The second step is to make sure that on the first death, the property passes into a protective will trust. This is a trust such as a Property Protection Trust (PPT) which guarantees a right of residence to the survivor so they can continue to live in the property. And on the second death, it will benefit the children and grandchildren. As a side-effect of this trust, it is highly likely that the entire value of the home would not be included in an assessment for care fees.

A great advantage of this type of trust is that should either remarry after their spouse’s death then the home would be protected from forming part of the new marital assets which means that any new husband or wife would not have any legal right to inherit any part of the family home that is in the Trust. Anything tied up in the Trust would also be protected from divorce or bankruptcy.

Mr Francis added: “We have recently worked with a family where the husband died very suddenly and unexpectedly and everything was left to his wife. Unfortunately, she suffered a stroke very soon afterwards and needed residential care.

“The local authority decided that she needed to pay all of her care fees and that the family home should be sold to pay for this. They have worked so hard all of their lives and wanted to pass on their inheritance to their children so they could get onto the housing ladder or pay for university.

“The tragedy is that others in the same care home have constructed their wills differently when both partners were fit and well so that half of the house passed into a protective trust and meant that only savings were used to pay for care. When they had nearly run out of saving, the state stepped in and covered the cost of care. It seems so unfair and a real catalyst to ensure everyone has proper advice on getting their affairs in order.”

For more information and to find out more about how to plan to avoid care fee costs, visit www.samfranciswillsoxford.co.uk