National Hoarding Awareness Week activities in West Berkshire from 20th to 27th May 2019

A West Berkshire-based hoarding and decluttering specialist is striving to remove the stigma of a mental health condition during National Hoarding Awareness Week which takes place from 20th to 27th May.

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Jo Cooke, the founder of Tapioca Tidy and co-founder of Hoarding Disorders UK (a community interest company) is giving a series of talks to the NHS and local charities to help raise awareness of the disorder and to fight prejudice about the stigma of hoarding.

Jo will also be present at the National Hoarding Conference: New Approaches Roadshow in Birmingham which is the official launch of Hoarding Awareness Week. This year’s focus is to raise awareness of the disorder as a mental illness, and not as a lifestyle choice.

Jo estimates that there could be at least 10,000 households in the West Berkshire area who need help and she receives referrals most days. Most hoarders tend to collect newspapers, books, containers, clothes, plastic bags and animals.

Jo and her team lead a free support group meeting which takes place on Thursday, 30th May and on the fourth Thursday of each month from 7pm to 9pm at Broadway House in Newbury. Anyone who is a hoarder or whose life is affected by hoarding is welcome to attend.  Jo has also inspired other support groups around the country to be formed and is instrumental in setting up new groups this year to be launched in Reading, Oxford and Swindon.

Jo said: “We welcome anyone to our support group who would like to discuss hoarding without judgement. We offer a safe place to talk and to reduce the stigma of hoarding. Unfortunately, owing to some television programmes that show the very worst side of hoarding, there’s a perception that hoarders are dirty and smelly which is not the case. We want to treat people with compassion and patience, not punishment.”

One former hoarder who attends the Newbury group said: “I used to have a hoarded house, in which none of the rooms apart from the bathroom were suitable for their original use. It was obvious that something had to be done, and that really it was down to me.

“Having made a good start with support from my family, I joined Jo’s hoarding support group and this has proved very motivational, reassuring and supportive. The group provides a safe and secure place for people with hoarding behaviours, and those supporting them.

“Talks and techniques bring a new perspective to dealing with the items themselves and the feelings and behaviours involved. There are talks from Cruse on bereavement, and talks on mindfulness, fire, health and safety, and stress control. But the most useful parts of the meetings are those when people just talk to each other. Feedback from those who attend indicates that they no longer feel as if it is ‘just them’, that others are in a similar situation. They feel more able to discuss the issues involved, as the people attending really understand what is going on. Ideas and techniques are exchanged and these spark enthusiasm and determination.”

National Hoarding Awareness Week also marks the second anniversary of the launch of Jo’s book “Understanding Hoarding”, an expert guide to helping a hoarder.  She will be giving tips and advice from the book on social media throughout National Hoarding Awareness Week.


Six best business books as recommended by West Berkshire SMEs

If you’re on the lookout for some business books, then our recent West Berkshire hour Twitter chat threw up some interesting reading suggestions.

We had a teacher among our participants, so some slightly unusual recommendations:

  1. Drive by Daniel H Pink – “Particularly good if you manage staff…”


2. Linchpin by Seth Godin – “Why it’s so important to make yourself indispensable and put everything you can into your work.”


3. For entrepreneurs with big ideas: A travel guide from big idea to business case by John Jukes – “a witty and readable guide for youngsters wondering whether self employment is for them and how to go about it” 


4. Creative Schools: revolutionising education from the ground-up by Sir Ken Robinson  – “A  vision on how schools could be transformed to ensure that all children flourish”


5.  Purple cow – transform your business by being remarkable – Seth Godin

How to stand out from the crowd and make your business truly exceptional


7. The four hour work week – Tim Ferriss – “an absolute game changer – I realised that for years, I’d been working for years to make someone else rich”


So, please let us know of any that we missed that should be on the list and let us know what you think of the books here. Also, if you’re local to West Berkshire and want to network without leaving your house, then please come and join us! We chat on Twitter every Wednesday from 7pm to 8pm using the hashtag #wberkshour


Please note there may be affiliate links in the post.

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

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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


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 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


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.