Friday, 29 May 2015

The Six Bells at Beenham - Pub of the Year

We always knew it was good, that’s why we recommend it to you, however the West Berkshire Campaign for Real Ale (CAMRA) has named the Six Bells at Beenham as their Pub of the Year!

They chose it for its quintessential English village pub feel, welcoming staff, and a great atmosphere that makes it feel like a home from home.

Chris and Glynis Harman have run the community-based village free house for the last 11 years and as a local resident, Mrs Harman has been in the pub trade most of her life. Husband Chris creates a mouth watering range of dishes using local ingredients and is extremely proud to have achieved this award twice in seven years.

So now you have no excuse not to visit! Why not pop in today, the Six Bells is located at The Green, Beenham, Newbury, RG7 5NX. For more details please visit or call 0118 971 3368.

Wednesday, 27 May 2015

West Berkshire Mencap’s Gateway Club Member Celebrates His 85th Birthday in Style!

This month, a member of West Berkshire Mencap’s Newbury Gateway Club received a lovely surprise. Alan has been attending Newbury Gateway Club, a weekly evening leisure club for adults with learning disabilities, for over twenty five years, making him the club’s longest attending member! Alan turned eighty five years old this month, and the staff and members of the club were determined to make it a birthday to remember. Alan was surprised with a cake at a Gateway session by his fellow members that had been made specially to celebrate this milestone.

Kate Grogan, Deputy Gateway Leader, said “It is amazing to have a member of our club who has been attending for the amount of time that Alan has. He is a very popular member of our club, and knows the history of the club better than anyone else, due to him being part of it for over twenty five years! We love that our members wanted to celebrate Alan’s special birthday with him, and we were so happy to see how much it meant to him. Moments like this highlight what a lovely club Gateway is to be a part of.”

West Berkshire Mencap’s Newbury Gateway has been awarded Gateway Beacon status by Royal Mencap, as an example of good practice for other Gateway clubs to follow. The service’s popularity has led to West Berkshire Mencap setting up two more Gateway Clubs which are based in Hungerford and Beenham. These smaller clubs cater for adults with learning disabilities who prefer a quieter atmosphere and enjoy small group work.

If you would like more information about West Berkshire Mencap’s Gateway Service contact the Charity on 01635 41464 or 

Monday, 18 May 2015

Calling All Buskers

Whatever your talent – playing a musical instrument, singing, dancing, juggling, magic tricks or something else entirely – you could be just the individual, group or troupe that Newbury BID (Business Improvement District) is looking for to provide street entertainment during Shop Local Week in Newbury.

As everyone knows, independent shops are what makes a town special, and Shop Local Week celebrates all that is great about Newbury’s independent retailers by encouraging everyone to support them by ‘shopping local’. Shop Local Week starts on Monday 29 June and finishes on a high on Saturday 4 July with Independents Day, in line with Independence Day in the USA. 

Suzanne Young of Newbury BID says, "During the whole week we would love see as many local entertainers as possible taking to the streets of Newbury and creating a lively, fun atmosphere for everyone to enjoy. We will have the fabulous Covent Garden Entertainers in town on Independents Day, but let’s showcase our home-grown talent too. Please register your interest now!"

If you are up for the challenge, please contact Suzanne Young at Newbury BID (email or call her on 01635 760505) for more details and to ensure that you are officially registered to perform on the streets of Newbury during Shop Local Week. 

Friday, 15 May 2015

Biddy at the Newbury Spring Festival

There’s still a week to go of this year’s Newbury Spring Festival – it runs until 23 May – so if you haven’t already attended an event this year do have a look at their website to see what’s available – whatever your musical tastes you won’t be disappointed. After all, it is one of the most magical music extravaganzas in the country – and right here on our doorstep.

It’s not even all about music. I booked my ticket some weeks ago for Poetry of the Great War which was performed at the West Berkshire Museum.

A friend and I ventured forth on what seemed to be the wettest day of May and as we had a couple of hours to while away before the event, we had lunch at the charming Tea Shop on the Canal, followed by a half hour enjoying some of the displays at the West Berkshire Museum itself – my friend’s first visit and on her list for a return very soon to see more. We particularly enjoyed the photographic exhibition where we were able to vote for our favourite (and that was a difficult choice as there was lots of entries from some very talented young photographers).

On to the performance – for one day only, but the third of the day – of Poetry of the Great War. Two actors marched on in uniform and stood silently, heads bowed, as Elgar’s Sospiri played, setting the scene.

The two young men, Ewan Somers and Dominic Rye from the Royal Central School of Speech and Drama, took the parts of two war poets: Wilfred Owen, killed in action at the age of 25, just one week before the signing of the Armistice; and Siegfried Sassoon, who survived the war, was decorated for his bravery on the Western Front and died when he was 80.

Their readings of the works of the soldiers was admirable and moving in the extreme, with my favourite, if that is the right word, being Sassoon’s Does It Matter? (Look it up: it’s beautiful.)

Just a couple of tasters of things during the next week:
From Page To Screen on Tuesday 19 May – at Englefield House at Theale, best-selling author Robert Harris talks about how some of his books have been transferred to film.

Till The Clouds Roll By on Thursday 21 May – with performances at both Sydmonton Court, Ecchinswell and Audley Inglewood, Kintbury, the Swell Party Company pay tribute to Jerome Kern, with songs from such great musicals as Showboat.

Ronnie Scott's All Stars on Friday 22 May – also at the Corn Exchange, this celebrates the music and history of one of the world's most famous jazz venues, with classic jazz from many of the jazz greats.

Kit & McConnel on Saturday 23 May – performing at the Corn Exchange, many people will already know how hilarious this comedy duo are.

Check out for lots more too!

Biddy x 

Monday, 11 May 2015

Biddy Conquers 4 Kingdoms

A fine spring day beckoned and the husband and I decided to take our grandson (DD) to conquer 4 Kingdoms.

If you’ve conjured up visions of suits of armour, dashing chargers, fire-breathing dragons and pointed lances, do not fear: 4 Kingdoms is tamer than that – though very exciting for anyone up to age of 12.

4 Kingdoms Farm and Adventure Park, to give it its full title, is just on the outskirts of Newbury, at Headley. (It is very easy to find but see for directions and details of opening times etc). We arrived on a bright May morning, but my goodness the wind was chilly. There are wide open spaces here and I suspect the wind whips up pretty regularly, so my advice is to take plenty of layers.

After parking up in the spacious car park, a warm welcome awaited us. Once you’ve paid your entrance fee, everything (except food and drink, obviously) is free, even the ride-on machines which normally cost at least £1 – and when you are only two-and-a-half you can never get enough of a see-saw with Mr Bump on the other end. 

DD barely knew where to start exploring. To an adult eye the sight looked fairly modest to begin with, but once you are properly ensconced you begin to realise that it stretches on… and on… and on. In fact there are 40 acres of Kingdom and, despite its proximity to the A339, you are surrounded by trees and countryside so well protected from road noise. And within those 40 acres there is lots to keep youngsters occupied for, quite literally, hours on end.

Clearly during school holidays and weekends it gets much busier, but we are making the most of DD being a pre-schooler and, mid-week, were able to enjoy everything at 4 Kingdoms with other families in the same position, and no need to queue.

While many of the facilities have certainly been well-used and could do with a lick of paint, it was early in the season when we visited and the staff were busy making improvements and carrying out general maintenance – and all cheerfully and discreetly. Maintenance is, of course, essential, so visitors are warned that not every ride or facility is necessarily available every day.

So, what is there at 4 Kingdoms? Sandpits, bouncy castles, forts to explore and climb, and lots of slides of varying heights and lengths, so plenty of choice depending on the size of your child. DD is very keen on small buildings which he can run in and out of, and there are many of these in the play village – a police station (plus prison), fire station, post office – even a bank with an ATM machine (non-functioning, I should add). Here too are lots of stationery vehicles, including a speedboat, for those who like to ‘drive’, and DD ran from one to the other with the greatest of glee. (I especially liked the London taxi – you could twist the driver’s head round so he could ask the backseat passenger, ‘Where to, Guv?’)

There are go-carts a-plenty, and what fun we had on those. There are two outside tracks, with go-carts that involve pedal power – great exercise for us – plus an indoor track with electric-powered ones. Woo-hoo!

Then on to the crazy golf (sadly no holes in one for me), and I managed to persuade the husband that perhaps the zip-wire and assault course were not for him.

The site is bordered by the River Enborne and there are three lakes. Go through a gate to follow a nature walk or picnic beside the water while watching ducks and other waterfowl. Beside the Magic Lake is what I would love most of all if I were still five-years-old: the Fairy Wood. There are little fairy houses in the trees too…

Although the Tractor Train was not running on the day of our visit, the fun had not stopped yet. There are animals to be admired in the great outdoors – pygmy goats, llamas and ponies – and in the animal petting area you can meet smaller creatures: rabbits, guinea pigs, chickens and, one of the highlights of our day, baby lambs, which you get a chance to feed at certain times of day in the spring. 

If you don’t bring you own picnic there is an indoor café where you can buy drinks, snacks and lunches – sandwiches, jacket potatoes, or such things as burgers or fish fingers and chips cooked to order. As well as two indoor seating areas, there is a soft play area for little ones if you want some time indoors.

We were there for hours so thought it well worth the entrance fee. Wind-blown, full of fresh air and well exercised, an exhausted DD was asleep in the car before we’d even left the car park!

Biddy x 

Wednesday, 6 May 2015

New Chapter for Waterstones bookshop in Newbury

Waterstones, the leading high street bookseller, is to relocate its bookshop on Northbrook Street in May, to stunning new premises just a couple of minutes walk away at Parkway.

Waterstones Northbrook Street will cease to trade on 8th May, with all booksellers transferring to the new bookshop at Parkway, which will open to the public on Saturday 6th June. Waterstones Parkway bookshop will trade over 2800 sq ft over one floor and will feature a beautiful new light oak bookcase and slat wall design, and a scrumptious new Waterstones Café with indoor and outdoor seating for 32.

Alongside triple certified coffee from Matthew Algie - approved by the Fairtrade Foundation, Rainforest Alliance and Organic Food Federation – the café will offer a unique and delicious range of handmade cakes and pastries sourced from local artisan bakers and specialist producers who champion natural ingredients. Locally sourced delicacies will include pastries and sandwiches sourced daily from Newbury’s Hethertons Bakery and mouthwatering cakes from Kintbury’s Cakes by Cocochoux.

Whilst brimming with many wonderful books as you would expect, the bookshop will also be home to a specially selected range of stunning stationery and gifts. And with free wi-fi and a well-stocked children’s department that the kids will love, Waterstones at Parkway will be a great place for the whole family to enjoy.

Waterstones Bookshop Manager Annie Gibb-Cohen says:

“We’re thrilled to be opening a brand new bookshop in Newbury. With its gorgeous new design, and delicious café, our bookshop will be a real pleasure to browse, to enjoy with the family and to visit with friends and catch up over a coffee. We are really looking forward to sharing our stunning shop with our customers.”

Waterstones will launch the new bookshop at Parkway with a special family fun day on Saturday 6th June.