Wednesday, 31 May 2017

Take Teddy out for the day on the Spa Valley Railway

Take Teddy out for the day on the Spa Valley Railway in Tunbridge Wells this Summer! All accompanied children who bring a teddy travel for £1 on the Spa Valley Railway on Saturday 12 and Sunday 13 August 2017 (and teddy goes free!) Normal fares apply to all other passengers coming along for the journey.

Everyone visiting the railway on this weekend will travel behind visiting Steam locomotive 'Ring Haw' No.1982 or visiting Class 20 D8188. A timetable with train times can be seen on the railway’s website. Standard Fares will include unlimited travel all day: Adult Day Rover - £12, Child Day Rover - £6 (£1 with a teddy), Senior Day Rover - £11, Family Day Rover - £31.00 To qualify for the £1 child fare you must remember to bring Teddy along and be accompanied by a full fare paying adult!

When travelling on the Spa Valley Railway passengers can choose to explore the High Weald by alighting at any of the stations including West Station in Tunbridge Wells, High Rocks, Groombridge and Eridge. Discounts are offered for train travel combined with tickets to view the High Rocks ancient sandstone outcrops opposite the High Rocks Inn or Groombridge Place visitor attraction in the village of Groombridge.

Lucy Worsley Marks 200 years Jane Austen left her home in Chawton

Lucy Worsley

200 years ago, last week, Jane Austen left her home in Chawton to depart on her final journey to Winchester where she died some weeks later.

Jane Austen’s House Museum ambassador Lucy Worsley marked this significant occasion today by laying flowers from the garden at the site of the memorial plaque outside the front of the House. Having been introduced by Museum Curator Mary Guyatt, Worsley paid an emotional tribute to Austen, speaking of her importance and reading the last letter she wrote from Chawton detailing her ill health and her plans to soon leave Chawton for Winchester.

The memorial plaque, which is a highly popular spot for visitor photos, was originally unveiled on the centenary of Jane Austen’s death on 18th July 1917. With funding from the Jane Austen Society of North America, the plaque has recently been conserved by Plowden & Smith in time for the bicentenary commemorations.

Pavol Hudaçek of Plowden & Smith said:

'The memorial had been displayed outside since 1917 and was substantially weather damaged.
'Repatinating the corroded bronze plaque, regilding the worn lettering, rebuilding the missing section of the oak frame and repairing the copper roof has not only restored the appearance of the memorial for this 2017 bicentenary, but will also help ensure the memorial survives for the tercentenary in another 100 years.'

The memorial plaque will be the featured object in the Museum’s 41 Objects exhibition, the story of Jane Austen’s life and legacy, told using 41 objects from the Museum collection.

Twyford Waterworks set for Open Day

Twyford Waterworks are set to open up their doors next month on Sunday 4th June to show visitors where your drinking water comes from.

The historic pumping station, a Scheduled Ancient Monument, will be open for visitors to find out how clean water was - and still is - abstracted from deep beneath the Hampshire Downs to supply the local area.

Visitors can enjoy an informative stroll around the Waterworks with everything fully open, restored machinery in operation and volunteers on hand to explain how it all used to work. If you wish, join a free Guided Tour to find out all about the Waterworks.

On display will be steam, diesel and electric pumps, all original to the site, along with the water softening works, industrial railway and unique water powered engines.

Matthew Feldwick, an event coordinator for the charitable trust that runs the Waterworks said:

'We look forward to showing people the wonders of engineering and welcoming visitors to this historic site; one of the hidden gems of Hampshire'

Admission is £5 for adults, £4 for seniors and children under 16 are free. Open from 11.00am to 4.00pm the site also boasts a tea room offering refreshments, free guided tours and a nature trail. For further information please visit their website.

Friday, 26 May 2017

Walk the Kent Coast Path

South Foreland Lighthouse

The only section of the England Coast Path currently open in the South East runs from Camber to Ramsgate and now is the perfect time of year to enjoy its delights - By Robert Peel.

There is probably not a more varied section of coastline in Britain than the 66 miles between Camber and Ramsgate. The shingles around Dungeness are a unique wildlife habitat forming an eerie landscape much used in films. Romney Marsh, gradually reclaimed from the sea over two millennia and famous for its sheep, is so different from the rest of Kent as to have earned the nickname “the fifth continent”. Folkestone is famous for its public artworks, many of them adjacent to the coast path, while the section of clifftop path from Folkestone past Dover and on to Deal is one of the finest walks in South East England with superb views of France on a clear day.

Kitesurfing at Broomhill Sands

The route passes castles of various ages, the point where Julius Caesar is supposed to have landed when invading Britain, glorious sandy beaches, nature reserves, Samphire Hoe made of the spoil from boring the Channel Tunnel and much, much more. Many sections are flat and as suitable for cycling as walking; others offer spectacular cliffs and exhilarating climbs. The currently open section finishes at Ramsgate with its fine harbour and elegant architecture including Augustus Pugin’s home The Grange. The whole route and the sights to be appreciated along the way are fully described in a guide produced by Kent Ramblers, available from

Thursday, 25 May 2017

Chiddingstone Castle set Ancient Egyptian Day

Spend the day learning more about the mysteries of Ancient Egypt in this wonderful Kent Castle.

There will be something for all ages on Egyptian Day including handling objects 3000 years old and listening to talks by a Professor of Egyptology. Meet Irethoreru - that’s the newly-discovered name of the 2600 year old mummy that would have been inside the Castle’s Ancient Egyptian coffin lid exhibited on the Great Hall Gallery!

Take part in a workshop to make a clay mummy with Kentish artist Brenda Burgess and listen to Egyptologist Mick Oakey who will deliver a talk about a day in the life of an Ancient Egyptian 'What did Irethoreru have for breakfast?'

Don't forget to visit ‘The Fields of Eternity’ - the Castle's unique, award-winning Ancient Egyptian-themed conceptual grass maze too!

All activities are included in the usual Castle admission fee except face painting when a small charge will apply.

The event will take place on Sunday 13 August between 11am and 5pm.

The Castle will also be open for visitors to explore the exquisite Japanese and Egyptian museum Collections of the late owner Denys Eyre Bower together with Buddhist and Stuart treasures. Explore the original Victorian rooms inside the Castle, including the large kitchen and servants’ quarters, and enjoy reading about the colourful and eventful life of Denys Eyre Bower in his study.

Celebrate the Isle of Wight Festival of Sea!

 Shipwreck Isle 2017

The Isle of Wight’s annual Festival of the Sea this year sets sail on June 23, for a voyage that will last until July 9, and with the range of nautical festivities - including a pirate festival on golden sands, delicious seafood fresh off the boat, and spectacular yachting extravaganzas featuring thousands of boats.

Highlights for 2017 include:

Pirate Plunder at Blackgang Chine
24th and 25th June & 1st & 2nd July
They will be hoisting the Jolly Roger to give young scallywags the chance to join a Scurvy Crew at Blackgang Chine, where there will be opportunities to learn how to sword fight like a true Blackgang Buccaneer and take part in the smugglers’ next treasure hunt.

Challenge the Wight
24th June
A strenuous 26.5-mile hike/run across the Isle of Wight at night. It’s a chance to walk from the Needles Landmark Attraction to Yaverland to raise money for Challenge & Adventure a local charity that helps disadvantaged and challenging young people on the Isle of Wight. A ‘lite’ route (12 miles) or kids route (4 miles) is also available.

Round the Island Race in association with Cloudy Bay 2017
1st July
This most famous of annual yacht races, and the largest of its kind in the world, regularly attracts entries exceeding 1,500 yachts and upwards of 12,000 sailors racing the 50 nautical miles westabout course around the Isle of Wight, starting and finishing in Cowes.

 Isle of Wight Symphony Orchestra present "Carnival at Sea"
1st July
A 'Carnival at Sea' by the Isle of Wight Symphony Orchestra at Medina Theatre, from 7:15pm. This family friendly concert will celebrate the Islands strong links with the sea - with a programme that includes Rule Britannia and Pirates of the Caribbean.

 Mardi Gras Parade in Ryde
1st July
A day-long carnival event by the sea. Take advantage of a free day of fun and celebration with a parade and festival at the beach.

 Shipwreck Isle 2017, Appley Beach, Ryde
2nd July
Ahoy there! Join in a thrilling pirate festival set on a spectacular beach, on an enchanted isle. Expect live pirate music, cannon and firearms demonstrations, stunt action sword fights, young pirates entertainment and much, much more skullduggery.

Panerai British Classic Week 2017
6th - 13th July
The Classic Week, now in its 11th year takes place in Cowes, on the Isle of Wight. Since 2010, it is the only UK regatta forming part of the Panerai Classic Yachts Challenge series, the leading international circuit for classic and vintage yachts. Social events included as part of the week include an Open Yachts Pontoon Party on the July 9; a Themed Crew Party – “Pirates of Penzance”- on July 10; a prize giving Gala Dinner on the July 12 and the famous Parade of Sail past the Royal Yacht Squadron on the final day, July 13.

The Edinburgh Cup and South Coast Championship, Cowes
9th – 15th July
A Regatta for the International Dragon fleet. Designed in 1929, the International Dragon combines classic elegance with grand prix performance, the world’s greatest sailing venues and some of the best sailors from around the globe. One of the Dragon fleet’s most prestigious trophies is the Edinburgh Cup which was presented to the class in 1949 by HRH The Duke of Edinburgh and is awarded annually to the winner of the International Dragon British Open Championship.

For full details of the Isle of Wight’s 2017 Festival of the Sea, visit Isle of Wight's website.

Wednesday, 24 May 2017

Blenheim Palace set for Food Festival!

Celebrity chef Jean-Christophe Novelli and Masterchef finalists Billy & Jack are among the food stars at this year’s Blenheim Palace Food Festival, held over Spring Bank Holiday weekend, from Saturday 27 May to Monday 29 May. The Festival was recently named as one of the top ten food and drink festivals in the world.*

The Festival will feature over 100 food and drink stalls including local Oxfordshire producers, children’s workshops and cookery classes, wine and beer pairings and food foraging trips. New for this year will be a Talks and Tastings Hub with a full programme of free talks and demonstrations, with opportunities to taste, learn, meet and talk with top chefs and producers.

William Prosser from organisers Fantastic British Food Festivals, says:

'There’s something for the whole family at this year’s show whether it’s sampling food from local producers, attending a children’s cookery workshop, chatting to top chefs or going on a food foraging trip – all in the beautiful setting of Blenheim Palace.'

Visitors will find regional produce from local producers such as chutneys and jams from Holmesmade; cakes from family run bakery Palace Cuisine, as well as crepes from Oxford Crepes. Or sample gluten free ice cream from Carmels and vegan cuisine from No Horsing Around. Marshmallow Heaven will be showing its imaginative range of marshmallows with toppings such as rhubarb and custard, pineapple and mango.

International cuisine will be well represented from Taste Tibet’s traditional dumplings and Himalayan curries, Korito’s Korean barbecue, Lebanese street food from Shawarma Box and Greek street food from food4festival. 

This year’s festival will have a wide choice of drinks from Mojito’s Mavericks’ cocktails (children can join in with a non-alcoholic version), Rubis luxury chocolate wine from Fred and Henry Enterprises, gin from No Comply and lemonade from Hullabaloos.
Jean-Christophe Novelli says “I’m looking forward to participating at this year’s Festival. It is in such a wonderful setting with so many activities for all the family. I’ll be giving demonstrations and talks at the Talks and Tastings Hub and answering questions about my dishes. See you there.”

Highlights of this year’s Blenheim Palace Food Festival include:

  • Jean-Christophe Novelli, celebrity chef
  • Bill & Jack, 2016 BBC TV Masterchef finalists
  • Rob Kennedy, executive chef from the Royal Military Academy, Sandhurst with over 85 culinary awards including 20 gold medals
  • Mark Peregrine, head chef, Raymond Blanc Cookery School
  • Emma North, chef at the Nut Tree Inn near Blenheim Palace where he has held a Michelin star for the past eight years
  • Marlow Renton from Wild Food UK, who will lead foraging walks
  • Nick Deverell-Smith, head chef/proprietor The Churchill Arms at Paxford
  • Kathy Slack “Gluts & Gluttony” on growing your own kitchen garden
  • Hanna Sillitoe, author of “Radiant” full of recipes that help to heal the skin
  • Wine and beer pairings
  • Children’s activities – cookery workshops, face paintings

Tuesday, 23 May 2017

English Heritage events in Isle of Wight


Isle of Wight's English Heritage properties Osborne and Carisbrooke Castle are both holding special events over half term.

There’s a chance to ride a Victorian penny-farthing bicycle as Mr Phoebus joins the fun at Victoria’s Fabulous Garden Party at Osborne, East Cowes. This grand occasion at the famous royal residence is on from Tuesday 30th May to 1st June. Celebrate Queen Victoria’s birthday with a fabulous party at her favourite home by the sea. A not to be missed opportunity to experience a traditional garden extravaganza with lady side saddle riders, jugglers, a Victorian photographer, a plethora of children’s games and pretend rifle drills, sideshows, and of delicious tea, cake and ice cream. Find out more and book tickets in advance on the English Heritage website

Cavaliers & Roundheads

Meanwhile at the island’s storybook castle there’s Cavaliers & Roundheads daily from Saturday 27th May to Sunday 4 June, 10am – 5pm. A lively children’s event where you can discover what it took to be a soldier of the English Civil War. There’s a test of agility for kids as they go to battle (with foam swords!) and a chance to learn cavalry skills and to master weapon in a soldiers drill. To also an opportunity to learn more about the castle’s history and hear tales from the Civil War including the story of King Charles I who was a prisoner at the fortress near Newport. Learn more at

Monday, 22 May 2017

Eastbourne to Celebrate Five Years of Seafront Beer Festival Fun

Beer and Cider by the Sea returns to Eastbourne’s Western Lawns on 26-28 May for a bank holiday event that is selling faster than ever before. Beer and cider enthusiasts can expect to get a real taste of Sussex thanks to an increase in locally-brewed beers ready for the picking at the fifth anniversary year.

Over 100 real ales, ciders and perries have been handpicked by the event sponsor, CAMRA, including the award-winning Black Cat Tzar Russian Stout which took home the bronze medal in the Society of Independent Brewers competition. Amongst the mouth-watering picks representing national breweries is the specialty ale ‘Chocolate Orange Delight’ and refreshingly zesty pale ale ‘Mad Goose’.

Due to the ever-growing interest in local breweries and micro-breweries, this year’s selection of Sussex beers has increased by a third. This year’s selection of local beers includes the rich, golden ‘English Garden’ and chocolatey ‘Parabellum’ Milk Stout which is the main ingredient for Bodiam Ice Cream’s beer flavoured ice-cream which is served at the Dolphin Pub on South Street!

Popular brewery Harvey’s will be bringing along their traditional horse-drawn Dray on Sunday and newcomers to the local brewery scene, Battle Brewery, who began brewing their beer last year will be showcasing their Pale and Bitter ales for the very first time. Eastbourne Borough Council Director of Tourism and Enterprise, Phil Evans said:

'This year has seen a tremendous growth in the number of local breweries and micro-breweries and it’s fantastic to see Sussex dominating the real ale scene. 'Beer and Cider by the Sea is a great opportunity to get people tasting new ales and supporting local breweries whilst enjoying some bank holiday fun at the Western Lawns. Grab tickets while you can because they’re selling out fast!'

There’s a beverage for all tastes at Beer and Cider by the Sea with a cocktail bar offering classic drinks from a minty Mojito to a sweet Woo Woo, plus soft refreshments at the bar! The Western Lawns is the perfect festival spot for soaking up the sun and washing down delicious nibbles from Olives and Things with a punchy apple cider. Taking the main stage across the weekend is a whole host of live bands. Kicking off the bank holiday weekend is Friday night’s headlining act ‘The Tar Babies’ who will be taking their audiences back to the swinging sixties with music to get crowds up and dancing! Ticket prices start at £6 for adults and can be purchased from the Tourist Information Centre in Cornfield Road and the Seafront Office or ordered online at It’s not too late to buy tickets for the Autumn Beer Festival on 5-7 October at the Winter Garden for a weekend of live music, pub style games and even more real ales chosen by CAMRA.

Margate's Massive May Bank Holiday

Visit Margate this May bank holiday weekend and take your pick from a jam-packed events and exhibitions schedule – or stay for a few days and do it all!

Be one of the first to experience the new additions to Dreamland, or to see the new exhibition at Turner Contemporary. Stroll along the seafront and check-out the amazing artwork on some of the bikes taking part in Margate Meltdown, chill out to live music on the piazza or at one of the venues hosting the Mod and Sixties Festival.

Margate is just 90 minutes from London St. Pancras on Southeastern’s high speed service and the station is just minutes from the beach and a short walk from Dreamland, Turner Contemporary, the harbour arm and Margate Old Town, with its enticing mix of galleries, vintage and retro shops and eateries.

Roll-up, roll-up - Dreamland opens for the season

 Free to enter, Dreamland will officially open its doors at 5pm on Friday, 26 May for what is set to be an epic bank holiday weekend for the park relaunch. More vintage rides have been added to the thrilling selection already there, modern art installations wait to be discovered and a new contemporary dining area, ‘The Friendliest Food Court Ever’ will be delivering bold and simple flavours in front of the new live stage, situated next to the Grade II * listed Scenic Railway. Other new additions include The Boardwalk alongside the Grade II listed menagerie cages, The Slide Bar, Tree Top Bar and Teddy and Betty Land – a brand new area with rides and entertainment for the little ones.

 Dreamland music events this weekend include Los Angeles band Vintage Trouble, who will be launching the new outdoor Scenic Stage on Friday evening, Maximo Park who will be launching the ‘Hall By The Sea’, Margate Wonderland Festival with headliners The Kills and Fun DMC. Opening times for the bank holiday weekend are 5pm to 11pm Friday and 11am to 10pm on Saturday, Sunday and Monday. Entry to the park is free, a wristband needs to be purchased for the rides. Friday night wristbands are £10 Big Kid and £7.50 Little Kid (in advance) or £12.50 Big Kid and £9 Little Kid on the day. Saturday, Sunday and Monday wristbands are £16 Big Kid and £11.50 Little Kid (in advance) or £19 Big Kid and £13.50 Little Kid (on the day).

See ‘Every Day is a New Day’ at Turner Contemporary

At 10am on Friday, 26 May Turner Contemporary will open the doors to their summer season exhibition, which celebrates the importance of art and creativity, its capacity to empower all of us and make positive change.

The exhibition brings together works by British sculptor Phyllida Barlow, British-Kenyan painter Michael Armitage and JMW Turner, with artwork by young people.

Phyllida Barlow has been making large-scale sculptural works for 5 decades, as well as being an inspirational teacher to many your artists at the Slade School of Art. This exhibition brings together works from the ARTIST ROOMS collection, alongside other sculptures and a selection of drawings from throughout her career. The exhibition coincides with Barlow representing Britain at this year’s Venice Biennale.

A series of new and recent works by Michael Armitage, a former pupil of Barlow’s at the Slade School of Art, will be shown for the first time in a public gallery in his exhibition Peace Coma. Playing on Western art history’s treatment of places that are seen as ‘other’ and drawing on personal and collective memories of life in Kenya and news and images circulating online, his paintings challenge social attitudes and inequalities.

Alongside the work of Barlow, Armitage and a selection of watercolours from JMW Turner, the exhibition will include artworks by school children, young people and their teachers from Kent, Medway and Kenya.

Turner Contemporary will be open from 10am to 6pm and is free to enter.

Step back in time with Dreamscapes: A portrait of Dreamland in the 60s

Enjoy a snapshot of Dreamland’s past and people in an exhibition of drawings, prints and paintings by Barry Kirk, former principal of Canterbury College of Art.

The exhibition presents a unique snapshot of Dreamland in the sixties. Using pioneering creative methods, Kirk’s colourful and bold pieces capture the vibrancy, colour and ambience of the amusement park in its heyday – complete with Teddy Boys and saucy ladies.

This is the first time the Dreamland Collection has been exhibited in one major display and the first exhibition the Dreamland Trust, whose role it is to conserve and promote Dreamland’s rich heritage, has shown in Dreamland.

The exhibition is free and opens on Saturday, 27 May in the Dreamland concourse. Opening times are the same as those for Dreamland.

Margate Meltdown – Ace Café returns for the 10th year running (29 May)

Margate seafront and harbour is given over to motorcycles and scooters, diverse club and trade stands and, from noon, a stage with live entertainment, including rockin’ DJ Bill Guntrip. This is a popular event for everyone, not just bike lovers, set against the stunning backdrop of Margate Main Sands and seafront.

Margate Meltdown is the most recently established ride out from Ace Café London and their chosen charity for this event is The Royal British Legion Riders Branch.

Margate Mod and 60s Festival

Come and celebrate British youth culture at the original seaside with live music from James Hunter, Pretty Things, Bangolian, Cat Black, The Galleys and Beatniks.

Friday, 19 May 2017

Jane Austen House Museum set to launch rose at Chelsea Flower Show

Jane Austen House Museum

Jane Austen’s House Museum in Hampshire is continuing its bicentenary commemorations with the launch of a Jane Austen Rose. The rose, developed by Harkness Roses, will be unveiled by Jane Austen’s House Museum ambassador Alan Titchmarsh at RHS Chelsea Flower Show on 22nd May.

Jane Austen Rose

Harkness Roses are generously donating a percentage of their proceeds to help support the Museum’s fundraising appeal to restore and protect Jane Austen’s precious home. Jane Austen’s House Museum is in the village of Chawton in Hampshire and is of international importance as the place where Jane spent the last eight years of her life and wrote or revised all her novels.

The rose, a bright and vibrant orange bush rose, reflecting the vibrancy of Austen’s characters, celebrates Jane Austen’s life in her bicentenary year. With a light sweet scent and great depth of colour, the rose radiates warmth.

Alan Titchmarsh

Later in this special commemorative year, Alan Titchmarsh will plant the Jane Austen Rose in the House garden in Hampshire. The roses will be available for sale at the Museum as well as via Harkness Roses.

Thursday, 18 May 2017

‘Rally of the Giants!’ at Blenheim Palace

Calling all classic car fans! Blenheim Palace is hosting the Pre-50 American Auto Club ‘Rally of Giants’ on Sunday 9 July. This superlative gathering offers a rare opportunity for collectors and admirers to see the finest and most valuable examples found anywhere in Europe.

There will be more than 400 classic American vehicles attending, including some of the best examples of motoring history and the most valuable. Dating from the early 1920’s through to the 1970’s the Rally of Giants is a must visit for those with a passion for American motorcars. For those with only a passing interest in motoring avocation expect your interest to be piqued with this remarkable collection of American motorcars, trucks, military vehicles and bikes.

Attracting collectors from the UK and continental Europe to Blenheim Palace the rally provides the perfect backdrop for admiring, purchasing and selling classics. Visitors can enjoy a full day out in Blenheim Palace, Park and Gardens with delicious food and refreshments available in the new Orangery Restaurant which overlooks the private Italian Gardens.

Wednesday, 17 May 2017

Emirates Spinnaker Tower launches Champagne Sundays

Emirates Spinnaker Tower guests raised a toast to the iconic viewing tower’s brand new pop-up Champagne Bar event, named Champagne Sundays, last week. Due to be hosted on Sunday evenings from 11 June to 10 September (excluding 6 August), guests will savour the stunning sunset over Portsmouth Harbour and be serenaded by live acoustic music whilst enjoying Champagne on View Deck 1, 100 metres above sea level.

The evening provided music by Nathan Turner aka Proper Little Soul Boy. Following a move to Portsmouth last year, he works locally as a DJ and musician alongside his acting career. He has performed in theatres across the country as well as providing voice-overs for various ad campaigns and audio books.

Nathan Turner

Tickets are £16 per person and include a glass of Castelnau Champagne on arrival. A selection of Champagne options to suit all tastes will then be available from the dedicated bar on View Deck 1, including Lanson Black, Veuve Cliquot and Hambledon Sparkling Wines.

About the Champagne


Founded in 1916, Champagne de Castelnau is located in the heart of Reims where it makes just under half a million bottles of de Castelnau per year. Their grape growers own more than 900 hectares of vineyards across some of the best terroirs of Champagne in 149 different crus.

Hambledon Wines

Hambledon is located on the South Downs in Hampshire and is England’s oldest commercial vineyard, originally established by General Sir Guy Salisbury-Jones in the 1950s.

Hambledon’s vision is to produce the best multi-vintage sparkling wine in England that will make Hambledon and the local community proud and gain universal recognition from the global wine community

Lanson Black

One of the oldest holders of the Royal Warrant, Champagne Lanson is a family-run House in the capital of Champagne, Reims. In the grounds of the House lies the only vineyard left within the walls of the city, Clos de Lanson. A library of fine and rare vintages of Champagne Lanson is stored in the limestone cellars that lie underneath the House in Reims.

Places at Champagne Sundays are limited so pre-booking is recommended to guarantee entry. Book online at or call 02392 857 520. 

Tuesday, 16 May 2017

Visit Isle of Wight launches 2017 Wight in Bloom Competition

Isle of Wight gardeners are invited to celebrate their work and take part in this year’s Wight in Bloom competition launched this month (8th May) in the The Chelsea Garden at the Earl Mountbatten Hospice, Newport, Isle of Wight.

Wight in Bloom is an annual community-based competition that celebrates the Island’s diverse range of gardens - from the small space to the large tourist attraction.

Sponsored by Red Funnel and organised by Visit Isle of Wight, the competition encourages gardeners to create colourful floral displays that will make the Island a brighter place to live and visit.

This year there will be 11 categories including: Best Small Front Garden, Best Large Front Garden, Best Commercial Garden, Best Senior Citizen Complex, Best Young People Initiative, Best Community Floral Project, Best Small Tourist Attraction Garden, Best Large Tourist Attraction Garden, Best Creative Use of a Small Space, Best Edible Garden and New for 2017 Best Water Feature.

Gardens can be entered into the competition from 19th May until the closing date of 30th June. Judging will take place from 3rd to 30th July when a team of local horticultural experts will visit the gardens to decide the first, second, highly commended and overall winner of The Peggy Jarman Trophy.

Wight in Bloom are supporting the Earl Mountbatten Hospice by purchasing EMH sunflower seed packets to give to entrants of this year’s Wight in Bloom competition. It is hoped that these will be grown across the Island during the summer to support the EMH 35th Anniversary and to brighten up gardens and open spaces.

David Thornton, CEO, Visit Isle of Wight said:

'Wight in Bloom is hugely important; it remind us all that a great deal of the Island is on constant show, and we need to look our best all the time.
'There are many green-fingered experts living on the Isle of Wight, from TV celebrities to groups of eager school children, all of whom help to make the Island look terrific.
'This annual competition is an opportunity to shine a spotlight on our “Garden Isle” heritage for the benefit of tourists and Island residents alike.'

Entry forms with full details of the categories can be found at the Visitor Centre, The Guildhall, Newport, the Red Funnel website, Visit Isle of Wight website, the IW County Press Shop and all main Island garden centres.

Wight in Bloom Patron Alan Titchmarsh MBE VMH DL will present the Awards at a garden party ceremony in September. Wight in Bloom has over the past two years worked with schools to encourage participation into the competition. It has recently developed an initiative to deliver a pilot mentor scheme for new School Garden Coordinators.

Working in collaboration with the RHS Campaign for School Gardening project, Wight in Bloom will assist a team of experienced school garden coordinators and local horticultural experts to provide support to enable less experienced schools to set up a garden project. For further information on how to join the scheme please contact the Wight in Bloom Co-coordinator at

Claire Matthews, RHS Campaign for School Gardening said

'The RHS Campaign for School Gardening inspires and supports schools to provide children with gardening opportunities to enhance their skills and boost their development.
'The direct benefits of gardening for children are wide ranging. Registration to the Campaign is free and you can join by logging on to'.

Kevin George, Red Funnel's CEO commented:

'We are delighted to continue our sponsorship of the ever popular Wight in Bloom.
'The annual competition is a great opportunity for first-time and seasoned gardeners to showcase their skills with categories designed to encourage young people and community groups to take part'.

Monday, 15 May 2017

The Duchess of Marlborough’s Annual Heritage Awards at Blenheim Palace

Millbrook Primary School with Her Grace, The Duchess of Marlborough

The Duchess of Marlborough hosted the prestigious Annual Heritage Awards celebrating academic excellence amongst primary school pupils last month. To award the prizes Her Grace inspects a large variety of work, which is submitted by students following their educational visits to Blenheim Palace.

Prizes are awarded for individual and group efforts; this year prizes were awarded in History, Art, Literacy and Science.

Schools who attended included: Madley Brook CP School, Millbrook Primary School, St Michael’s C.E.Primary School, Woodstock C.E.Primary School, The Marlborough School and Abingdon & Witney College.

There were also individual prizes awarded to Bladon C.E. Primary School: Art & Science Prize, Lady Barn House School: History Prize, and Middleton Cheney Primary Academy: Art & History Prize. The event was attended by VIPs including Cllr Ian Hudspeth, and Cllr Frank Collingwood.

Her Grace, the Duchess of Marlborough said:

'It was a pleasure to see so many talented school children and present them with their awards. I am proud of Blenheim Palace’s education programme and it is inspiring to see the work that the students produce following a visit to the Palace.' 

 Karen Wiseman, Head of Education said:

'This year we welcomed a remarkably interesting body of work, making judging for the final prize-giving very tough! Our education programme continues to grow and we look forward to seeing what will be submitted next year.'

Blenheim Palace has been supporting education for many years, with its most popular 'school visit' being life at Blenheim Palace during World War II. The evacuees of Malvern slept in the Long Library, studied in the Staterooms, and enjoyed P.E. lessons on the Grand Court and South Lawn. They resided here between 1939 and 1940.

Blenheim Palace delivers enriching and engaging educational visits, and welcomes over 30,000 school children to the Palace per year.

Introducing Butser's newest addition to the family

Butser Ancient Farm are delighted to announce the birth of twin baby goats this morning (15th May). The two boys were discovered by staff member Tiffany Francis and are the sons of our English goat Sorrel, who came third place in her category at the Singleton Rare & Traditional Breeds show last summer. English goats are a traditional breed in Britain and there are only 1800 individuals in the country.

At just a few hours old, the boys are already exploring their paddock and tiptoeing out into the rain under Sorrel’s watchful eye. Based on past experiences at the farm, the next few months will be full of mischief and mayhem as the two boys will find every opportunity to escape their paddock and explore the site. The boys have not yet been named but will probably go with Butser tradition and take a botanical name like our other goats Sorrel, Yarrow and Comfrey.

Now is the perfect time to visit the site and meet our new arrivals in the beautiful spring weather, as we are now open seven days a week!

Wednesday, 10 May 2017

What's on at Portsmouth Historic Dockyard this Half-Term

This May half term (27 May - 4 Jun), families need look no further than Portsmouth Historic Dockyard for an amazing day out. With 11 attractions waiting to be explored, Portsmouth Historic Dockyard promises all ages a day of heroic encounters, experiencing the ins and outs of Britain’s 800 years of ground-breaking naval heritage. It’s the place #WhereAdventuresBegin.

NEW in 2017: Blockbuster Exhibition – Pioneers to Professionals: Women and the Royal Navy

New in 2017, this exclusive exhibition marks the centenary of the formation of the Women’s Royal Naval Service (WRNS). Girls and boys will be inspired by the stories of bravery and gallantry whilst following the history of women and the Royal Navy from the age of sail to the present day, hearing the many surprising and lesser-known stories of naval women stretching back centuries.

NOW included in All Attraction Ticket - Scale to new heights

The popular mast climbing experience at Boathouse 4 is now included in the All Attraction Ticket so families can step up to the challenge during a visit to Portsmouth Historic Dockyard. Courageous visitors over 1.1m tall can put their wits to the test by scaling the ‘Mast & Rigging’ experience to reach the crow’s nest that overlooks the Boatbuilding Skills Training Centre on the ground floor of this historic building.

HALF TERM special - Step into the crew’s shoes 

During May half term families can step into Victorian naval crew’s shoes on board HMS Warrior 1860. The ship’s company will host talks in the Sick Berth about life on board for ill crew, what medicines they would have been given and how the doctor would have cared for them in such a limited environment. Small arms demonstrations and gun drills on the gun deck will round off the immersive experience into Victorian battle.

Be guided around Nelson’s flagship

Having revealed a new look and visitor route in 2016, HMS Victory, one of the world’s most famous defenders of Britain, now also offers visitors an audio guide for tours around the ship’s nooks and crannies. Families can walk in Nelson’s footprints, experience life on board first hand and step inside Nelson’s cabin and the Poop Deck, which were only first revealed to the visiting public last year.

Go Totally Tudor 

Between the 27 May and 4 June 2017, families can take part in some Totally Tudor fun at the Mary Rose. Tudor arts and craft activities will run throughout the day to entertain all ages – the perfect accompaniment to meeting the Mary Rose Crew, taking in the spectacular projected vignettes of the crew on the hull of the Tudor Ship and hearing all about life on board.

All Attractions Ticket to Portsmouth Historic Dockyard, one year unlimited access ticket 

Adult (online) - £28.00 (£35.00 when bought on-site)
Child (online) - £12.00 (£15.00 when bought on-site)
Concession (online) £25.20 (£31.50 when bought on-site)
Family (2 Adults and up to 3 Children) (online) - £60.00 (£75.00 when bought on-site)

Discounted tickets can be purchased online.

Monday, 8 May 2017

Blenheim Palace Support for School’s Sensory Garden

Blenheim Palace's Sarah Morris hands over the cheque to Springfield School

Pupils and staff from Springfield Special Needs School in Witney travelled to Blenheim Palace to collect a charity cheque for £1,000.

The money was raised by staff at the UNESCO World Heritage Site and will go towards developing the garden at the secondary school site.

As well as fundraising for the garden, Blenheim Palace’s head gardener Hilary Wood is helping with its design and a Palace staff team of volunteers are also planning to help build it.

The fundraising is part of a series of events and activities to support local groups and charities currently being undertaken by Blenheim Palace. Blenheim Palace’s Head of Human Resources, Sarah Morris said:

'It was lovely to be able to hand over the cheque in person to pupils, staff and helpers from Springfield School during their visit to us.
'The school make several visits here each year and are always looking at innovative ways to provide amazing new learning opportunities for their pupils – the entire team here is delighted to be able to support their endeavours.

'We are particularly excited to be involved with the garden project and Hilary and her team of volunteers are looking forward to getting on site to help out with the design and planting,' 

Springfield Special Needs School, located in Witney, educates children and young people, between the ages of 2 & 16. All of the pupils have severe learning difficulties and communication problems. The school provides a flexible approach to learning, respecting the individuality of each of its pupils and allowing them to grow personally.

Its nursery and primary classes are integrated with Madley Brook Community Primary School and its secondary pupils are based at the Woodgreen Secondary School site.

‘We are delighted that Blenheim Palace chose to support our school’ said Lisa Benson, Fundraising & Communications Manager for Springfield School.

‘Pupils and staff love coming to Blenheim and we feel very privileged to have this amazing space on our doorstep. To be able to access their amazing gardening skills and experience is an even bigger bonus! Our secondary age pupils spend a lot of time in our school garden. It’s a key part of teaching essential life skills to ensure that our pupils can live as independent and fulfilling adult lives as possible.’

Friday, 5 May 2017

Hobbs of Henley launches new Gin ‘Mr Hobbs’

Mr Hobbs

Where better to launch a gin named after you than on a boat on the river, belonging to the company you set up in 1870, nearly 150 years ago and now run by your great, great, great Grandson? Onboard Hobbs of Henley’s New Orleans, American styled paddle-steamer, Jonnie Hobbs, the current MD of Hobbs of Henley, invited guests to sample Mr Hobbs’ favourite tipple, inspired by his own recipe for distilling his gin, which has recently been discovered.

Hobbs and Henley are synonymous with the River Thames. Mr Harry Hobbs, the founder of Hobbs and Sons (now Hobbs of Henley) was also the publican of The Ship Hotel in Henley in 1870 and could often be found in his punt around 11am enjoying his home-distilled gin. The flamboyant Mr Hobbs carried his gin in a drinking flask, which a local boat maker made him as a thank you for introducing him to his future wife. The gin was renowned for its unusual ingredients and until now that secret recipe had been lost. Jonnie and his wife Suzie found the recipe in the back of an old framed photo of Mr Hobbs himself, with detailed instructions for its distilling.

Jonnie and Suzy Hobbs have launched this premium gin at a time when there is a renaissance in British gin. Distilled from only the finest ingredients, the gin is in keeping with the reputation and brand of Hobbs of Henley, and will be a unique extension of the family business.

Henley hosts some of England’s finest cultural events such as Henley Royal Regatta, Henley Music & Arts Festival and Henley Literary Festival. Mr Hobbs gin will complement these festivals with its exclusive brand which will be distilled in limited amounts to maintain its high quality and its special refreshing properties.

Hobbs of Henley is a family business through and through and is inextricably linked with Henley and the history of the area. The Hobbs family have traced their ancestry through the direct male line to another Harry Hobbs of Hambleden in 1490! Today the company still offers pleasure boating on the Thames at Henley, where you can hire a boat for a day or an hour, enjoy a guided cruise along the Thames or relax and enjoy a holiday on board one of their luxury self-drive Linnsen cruisers.

Mr Hobbs’ gin will be available at the Hobbs of Henley boatyard, at a number of selected local establishments or RRP £36 (inc VAT). It will also be available on the new Gin & Fizz cruises offered by Hobbs of Henley on 13 May, 3 June or 23 September.

Hobs of Henley, The Boat House, Station Road, Henley-on-Thames RG9 1AZ

Thursday, 4 May 2017

Exbury Egg comes to Gunwharf Quays

‘Stephen Turner’s Exbury Egg’

Stephen Turner, the artist who created the ‘Exbury Egg’, a wooden egg-shaped sculpture in which he lived and worked for over a year through 2013 and 2014, continues his odyssey across southern England with ‘Stephen Turner: Everything Comes From The Egg’, a new exhibition and residency programme.

At Gunwharf Quays, ‘Stephen Turner’s Exbury Egg’ is located in the central pond of City Quay, as a monumental sculptural presence from mid May 2017 ( for over three months. A month after the Egg is installed in the quay, the exhibition, ‘Everything Comes from the Egg’ will open at Aspex. This offers visitors an opportunity to see the range of artworks, ephemera and documentation, Stephen has made and collected over the course of the project. This is a comprehensive exhibition comprising drawings, prints, photographs, found objects, works on paper, sculptures and video made by Turner over the last four years. Stephen will also be continuing his exploration of places and communities as Artist in Residence at Aspex through May 2017. (16 May – 3 September 2017 and Aspex, Portsmouth: 16 June – 3 September 2017)

Colin Wilding, General Manager at Gunwharf Quays, said:

'Hosting Stephen Turner at the centre of Gunwharf Quays will give visitors an opportunity to witness this unique project up close. Our location on Portsmouth’s historic waterfront will provide a truly spectacular backdrop for this incredible structure.'

Joanne Bushnell, Director of Aspex, said:

'We are thrilled to be hosting this exhibition, showcasing the work produced by Stephen Turner throughout this yearlong residency in the Exbury Egg and for the opportunity to work closely with Gunwharf Quays, to bring this engaging body of artwork to a wider audience.'

The exhibition combines Turner’s ongoing environmental, historical and cultural investigations into the natural world with a sustainable artistic practice and a temporary ‘hermit’ lifestyle. During solo residencies in the Egg on the River Beaulieu in Exbury, New Forest in 2013-2014 and by the Leeds & Liverpool Canal for Super Slow Way in Burnley (2016), Turner catalogued his forays in each location in collections of digital imagery, objects, drawings and personal maps. Borrowing scientific methodologies, the artist transmuted them to his creative process; from collecting red river water in order to observe sedimentation, to presenting multiple series of glass jars filled with local flora, including Samphire and fruits, preserved in alcohol to upcycling clothing by patterning fabrics with natural dyes. His observational drawings on discarded packaging use inks produced from oak galls; and small egg-shaped sculptures are made from dove feathers, mosses, shells, crab carapace and other natural materials. Video works reflect and comment as visual meditations on living and working in and around the Egg in different places.
Stephen Turner

During Turner’s long residencies in Hampshire and Lancashire, the exposed sculptural form of the Egg has become bleached by the sun, scoured by wind and rain and accrued algae and barnacles. The Egg will present its weathered patina in Gunwharf Quays, while its interior state which shows the diverse ephemera of Turner’s practice – works in progress, unmade bed, tools, kitchen ware and clothing left as evidence of occupation – will feature as a large format photograph in the exhibition at Aspex.

Turner’s practice is concerned with aspects of time and the dialectics of transience and permanence. His work often involves spending long periods in odd abandoned places, noting the changes in the complex relationship between people and the natural environment. His previous work includes installations for Turner Contemporary in Margate, Northern Gallery for Contemporary Art in Sunderland and Fermynwoods Contemporary Art in Northamptonshire. He has undertaken residencies for Stour Valley Arts at Kingswood in Kent and for Seafort, he occupied a derelict searchlight tower on the Shivering Sands in the Thames Estuary.

Call for Artists for the InsideOut Art Trail

On the 2nd July InsideOut Art Trail are calling out for artists to showcase their works of art to the public.

The festival is being held over 4 locations both inside and outside spaces, in the centre of Romsey as part of the 2 week Romsey Festival where the council is distributing 30,000 across Hampshire.

Spaces are available for all levels of artists/makers and this vibrant location gives the opportunity to sell direct to the public whether you are a glassmaker, ceramist, sculptor, illustrator, painter – contemporary or traditional, furniture maker, silversmith, textiles etc..

Spaces are available from as little as £15. The event is from 10am contact telephone no. 07514 680 872/ 02380 611068 for an application form and further details.

Wednesday, 3 May 2017

South East attractions among winners at VisitEngland 2017 Awards for Excellence

Monkey Haven team celebrating their award

Three attractions from South East England were among the winners at the VisitEngland 2017 Awards for Excellence on 24th April.

Isle of Wight's Monkey Haven, Oxfordshire's Blenheim Palace and Buckinghamshire's Waddesdon Manor all walked away with awards on the day.

The awards ceremony, hosted by Sue Perkins, took place at the Hilton Waldorf in London and welcomed 67 finalists selected from almost 600 applications, the highest number ever received.

The prestigious awards, now in their 28th year, celebrate those businesses and individuals who continuously raise the bar of England’s tourism offer.

Blenheim Palace 

Blenheim Palace won national recognition for its positive approach to welcoming visitors from China.

The Oxfordshire UNESCO World Heritage Site was presented with the GREAT China Welcome award.

The GREAT China welcome programme aims to make Britain the destination of choice for the rapidly-growing Chinese market.

Blenheim Palace’s Operations Director, Heather Carter said:

'We are absolutely delighted to have won this award. Blenheim Palace is a living, changing experience with a wealth of events, themed tours and exhibitions throughout the year, and welcomes millions of visitors both from the UK and overseas.
'We were the first stately home to sign up for the GREAT China Charter and we are committed to developing our Chinese market.
'Blenheim is continually looking at innovative ways to improve and adapt the visitor experience to appeal to Chinese tourists and to underline the fact we are ‘China ready’,'

Among the initiatives currently in place are Chinese guide books and guides, an audio guide and map on their website, a Mandarin speaking waitress in the Orangery and a menu in Mandarin.

All staff also have the opportunity to enrol in Mandarin Chinese language classes free of charge.

The team are about to produce audio recordings of some of the Palace and Gardens tours in a variety of languages; including Chinese.

Blenheim Palace was also among the first major UK heritage visitor attractions to accept UnionPay, the most widely used bank debit card throughout China and South East Asia.

In addition to its on-site initiatives Blenheim Palace works with a number of Chinese travel groups, tour operators and trade missions in China.

Monkey Haven founder Don Walser

Moving on to the Isle of Wight, Monkey Haven was named as the best Small Visitor Attraction.

The animal sanctuary just outside Newport is home to rescued monkeys, owls, meerkats and other exotic creatures.

The judges praised the Keeper talks, website, new signage and high standards of maintenance.

It’s been a hugely successful year for the team, as in February, they were awarded a prestigious gold accolade from VisitEngland and they’ve maintained their top slot on TripAdvisor as the most popular attraction on the Isle of Wight.

Founder Don Walser, who attended the ceremony with his daughter Kelly Wickes commented: 'We are amazed and delighted!

'This award means so much to us. Six years ago, when we set up a primate rescue centre on the Isle of Wight, everyone thought we were crackers. Now we’re the best small attraction in the country.'
'We’re a small charity but thanks to the support that we’ve had, we’ve been able to continually expand and evolve and care for growing numbers of creatures in crisis, from monkeys who’ve been smuggled through customs to meerkats who’ve been victims of the cruel pet trade.'
Don, who attended the ceremony wearing his lucky monkey tie, added: 'Thank you to everyone who has made this possible – our dedicated team of staff and volunteers, and every single person who’s visited us or supported us in any other way. This award is for you all.'

Waddeston Manor team celebrating their award with Sue Perkins (left)

The third and final South East attraction that won an award was Waddeston Manor that took home the Large Visitor Attraction of the Year award and it was the first time they had won that type of national accolade. The judges were particularly full of praise for Waddeston Manor's staff and volunteers who were so friendly and welcoming on the day of the mystery assessment visit. They were impressed with all the improvements to the site, and the quality of everything they experienced.

Simon Wales, Waddesdon’s General Manager said: 'We are delighted and honoured to receive this award from VisitEngland.

'This recognition means so much to all the staff and volunteers whose commitment makes Waddesdon what it is today.

'We welcomed over 420,000 visitors last year, and we have worked hard to ensure that everyone, whether on a day trip, family outing or group visit, experiences and enjoys the gardens, the extraordinary house and its collections, the aviary, wine cellars, special events, walks and talks, as well as our restaurants and shops throughout the year.'

In addition from the winners, there was a further six South East based finalists that included: The Grand Brighton (Afternoon Tea of the Year), Daisybank Cottage Boutique Bed and Breakfast (Boutique/Guest Accommodation of the Year), The Oakley Court (Dog-Friendly Business of the Year, The Mary Rose Museum (Large Visitor Attraction of the Year), Oxford VIC / Experience Oxfordshire (Visitor Information Provider of the Year) and The Chestnuts (Self-Catering Property of the Year).

VisitEngland Chief Executive Sally Balcombe spoke about the overall awards and said:

'This year’s awards were fiercely contested and we had some terrific applications, showcasing not only the excellence on offer within English tourism but also the outstanding innovation and the sheer diversity of experiences throughout the country.

'From afternoon tea in a railway carriage to ‘Alice in Wonderland’ boutique hotel rooms, from great family friendly animal attractions to cottages for one, all well deserved the recognition of their quality and service.'

Once again Tourism South East and title sponsor the Grand Brighton are looking to recognise and celebrate the very best tourism businesses in the South East with the launch of the Beautiful South Awards 2017.  The Awards cover a range of categories from hotels to visitor attractions and tourism experiences to holiday parks.
Entry forms can be downloaded from and need to be submitted by 5pm on Friday 23 June 2017.

‘Monkey University’ comes to Monkey Haven

Clear your diaries for Saturday 6th May – as Monkey Haven on the Isle of Wight is hosting a special day for ‘Monkey University’.

Boffins from the University of Portsmouth will be on the Island to tell visitors about their work with the sanctuary’s very clever Macaques. These brainy monkeys share up to 93 per cent of our DNA and research shows that they can recognise other monkey faces and play the childhood game of Snap! They’re also very quick at another favourite game called Hunt the Raisin.

Throughout the day, there will be a quiz, raffle, activities and talks. Plus don’t miss the demo at 2.30pm where you’ll be able to see for yourself just how smart the monkeys are, by watching them using a special computer with touch-screen technology that tests their decision making. Their participation is entirely voluntary, but they all want to take part, as the games are fun, and there might be a raisin it in for them, if all goes well.

Monkey Haven’s Founder, Don Walser, commented:

'This will be a great day out, and part of the International Macaque Week celebrations taking part around the world.
'It’s amazing watching the monkeys play Snap! - although that’s assuming that they don’t try and eat the computer instead, just for a laugh!
'So come and join us – it’s the smart thing to do on Saturday 6th May.'
Special talks on Saturday 6th May

11.30am: What are Macaques?

12.30pm: How primates communicate

1.30pm: How to protect Macaques with conservation education

2.30pm: Demo with the Barbary Macaques