Monday, 31 July 2017

Betteshanger Park set for new collection for upcoming mining museum

Darren Crows, Museum & Heritage Manager at Kent Mining Museum

The Kent Mining Museum, due to open at Betteshanger Park near Deal in 2018, have become custodians of over 500 artefacts relating to the history of the Kent Coalfield.

New collection on loan from Dover Museum

The new collection, on loan from Dover Museum, includes mining workwear, signage, equipment and ephemera and will form part of the Museum displays and its research archive. Items of significance include the Snowdown Colliery plant book, offering a valuable glimpse into the working methods of the pit in its early years, The collection move comes after Museum recently completed its new Storeroom. With specialist storage units and state of the environmental monitoring equipment (both funded by a generous donation from the Association of Independent Museums), the Kent Mining Museum is now able to care for and help preserve items relating to Kent’s unique mining heritage.

Darran Cowd, Museum and Heritage Manager, Kent Mining Museum, said:

'To be asked to take care of this substantial collection is a big vote of confidence for the Kent Mining Museum. Many of the items will form parts of the displays when we open the doors to the Museum next year. There are deep links between the coalfield and the wider communities of the Dover area and we continue to work closely with Dover Museum to collect and promote the heritage of the area.'

Particular thanks are due to Jon Iveson and Dr Lynda Pearce of Dover Museum for facilitating the loan and making their own knowledge of the coalfield available to the museum project. The Museum is actively looking for further stories and items about the Kent Coalfield. If you have something, a badge, books, photographs, Davy lamp, tools or a grandparent’s diary telling of their journey to Kent, the team urge you to get in touch. They’ll be given a safe home, where they’ll be used and shared with future generations.

How the project started 

The Kent Mining Heritage Foundation (KMHF) is a registered charity (charity no. 1165403) working in partnership with Betteshanger Park, Hadlow Group, Aylesham and Elvington & Eythorne Centres to collect, care and promote East Kent’s coal mining heritage. From the outset The Betteshanger Project has been working towards a fundraising target of £1.8m. Through the work of the Kent Mining Heritage Foundation’s Development Group the project has received unprecedented support but currently faces a £0.9m funding gap. Help is vital in ensuring the success of the project.

For information about the Kent Mining Museum, see

Tuesday, 25 July 2017

Chiddingstone Castle set for country fair

Chiddingstone Castle in Kent will be holding its popular annual Country Fair on Sunday 10th September between 11am and 5pm.

The fair, which is set in the idyllic rural setting of Chiddingstone Castle with its beautiful grounds and lake, will celebrate the traditions of our countryside and the country sports associated with it. Almost all of the activities and displays are included within the affordable admission fee charged at the gates.

What's new this year?

New this year will be a giant ‘Tractor Ted’ bouncy castle tractor and slide for young children and lots of special ‘Tractor Ted’ branded activities.

Watch a display from the horses and hounds of the local Old Surrey Burstow & West Kent Hunt; see the elegant display of side-saddle riding; watch the working dogs and perhaps take part in the fun Exemption Dog Show which is open to all! This year there will also be a display of vintage tractors in the main event arena.

What's on throughout the day?

Try your hand at laser clay pigeon shooting in the area beside the Castle’s Victorian Orangery (additional charge).

Stroke the donkeys and gorgeous miniature Shetland ponies. Have a go at fly fishing on the Castle’s lake and watch a local farrier demonstrating a range of traditional skills.

The ever-popular terrier racing will also be returning so it is encouraged to bring your terriers!

The beer tent will be selling Larkin’s Ale, brewed in Chiddingstone, and refreshments can be purchased from a number of stalls selling home-produced food.

There will also be some fantastic shopping in the marquee with stalls selling local art, produce, antiques, vintage ware and pet products.

Stop off at the Castle’s Tea Tent for local wine, a glass of Pimm’s, tea, coffee, scones or a slice of homemade cake.

After a full days entertainment everyone will be invited to enter the great fun family giant wool sack race – a seasonal favourite!

Admission prices

There will be a charge on the gates of £5 for adults and £2 for children aged between 5 and 13 (under 5’s free). The Castle will be offering reduced admission throughout the day for visitors to enter the Castle itself to admire the fascinating collections of Japanese, Ancient Egyptian, Buddhist, Stuart and Egyptian artefacts acquired by the late antiquarian, Denys Eyre Bower.

Monday, 24 July 2017

New Archives Preserve Blenheim Palace’s Priceless Heritage

Alexa Frost

Oxfordshire's Blenheim Palace has recently had their unique collection of historical documents and artefacts transferred to a new, repurposed archive.

Split across three rooms and two floors, the newly renovated facilities are temperature and humidity controlled; providing a stable environment for thousands of objects and documents dating back centuries.

The move, which was carried out over five days by Blenheim Palace staff, is part of the Estate’s £40m restoration programme which will also see them re-acquiring key lost works.

'Correctly preserving archival material is an essential part of protecting Blenheim Palace’s heritage,' said Blenheim Palace archivist Alexa Frost.

'Archives provide evidence of activities which help us to understand the culture of those who lived and worked on the Estates as well as giving us insights into the lives of the Marlborough family,' she added.

The new archive features rolling shelving racks to provide ease of access as well as more storage areas for existing material and space to accommodate modern archives in the future. There is also a designated area for map storage.

For Oxford graduate Alexa, who also has a Masters degree in Classics from the University of Bristol and is in the final year of a Classics PhD at the Royal Holloway, the new facilities will provide a unique opportunity.

'Approximately 80 per cent of our archival material has been part-catalogued: 20 per cent is yet to be rediscovered,' said Alexa.

'I am particularly interested in the social history of the Blenheim Estates. As the cataloguing programme continues, I often find information about individuals which we were not previously aware of as we have very few records listing individual servants.

'A few of my favourite discoveries thus far include ‘1470 Virgil Aeneid’ – as a Classicist this is a particularly favourite especially as it is an incunabulum i.e. a book printed in the infancy in printing It is in staggeringly good condition and the text is still very legible.

'Also ‘Illuminated addresses from schools etc. to Frances 7th Duchess of Marlborough for her work as Vice-Reine of Ireland 1876 -1880’ – the beauty of the addresses fittingly reflects the kindness of the Duchess and the messages are very touching.' She added.

Celebrating 30 years of UNESCO

Blenheim Palace is celebrating the 30th anniversary of being awarded World Heritage Site status by the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO).

The Oxfordshire palace, which has been home to the Dukes of Marlborough since the early 18th century, is among around 1,000 locations globally to be recognised as having outstanding value to humanity.

Designed by Vanbrugh in the Baroque style, the Palace was financed by Queen Anne, on behalf of a grateful nation, following the first Duke’s triumph over the French in the War of the Spanish Succession.

Thursday, 20 July 2017

The Grand Brighton launches Heaven Skincare

The Grand Brighton hotel's luxury spa officially introduced Heaven Skincare with a press launch on Tuesday 11th July. In attendance was the creator of Heaven Deborah Mitchell, who famously counts British royalty and a whole host of A list celebrities as her clients. Attendees enjoyed an exclusive Q&A with Deborah along with sampling the products and exploring their remarkable benefits, tapping into the knowledge of the spa’s experienced therapists.

The Spa at The Grand is the first spa to offer Heaven treatments on the South Coast, including the world renowned Bee Sting Facial (from £95 for 60 minutes) which has been specially created to give an instant anti-ageing effect. With the use of organically sourced adaptogens the range of treatments available aims to normalise, protect and perfect the skin, whilst working on you emotionally for ultimate relaxation and holistic healing.

Always aiming to be one step ahead of the competition and the first to pick and create new trends in beauty; Heaven was the first skincare brand to recognise the benefits of bee venom and create products using it. The product prides itself on ethically obtaining the venom from bees, ensuring none are harmed during the process.

Leah Van der Kieft at The Grand Brighton says:

 'It was a fantastic event and an honour to welcome the inspirational Deborah Mitchell. We are delighted to offer such an amazing range of skincare products and new treatments at The Spa at The Grand. We are impressed by Heaven’s use of natural, organic and ethically sourced ingredients which suit our own ethos and approach. We know the innovative treatments will be a great addition to our spa and so far our clients who have experienced Heaven have been amazed by the results.'

Deborah Mitchell

Deborah Mitchell, Founder of Heaven Skincare comments:

 'I am so pleased to be working with The Grand Brighton. It is such an iconic part of Brighton and they have been very supportive of the work we do here at Heaven. I am so excited for people to book in for a treatment and experience the remarkable results for themselves.'

Tuesday, 18 July 2017

Marwell Zoo Joy Over Birth of Critically Endangered Foal

Staff at Marwell Zoo in Hampshire are celebrating the birth of a critically endangered African wild ass – giving a huge boost to one of the rarest animals in the world.

Nine year old Nadifa, who was born at the zoo, gave birth on Friday 14th July and both mother and foal are said to be happy and healthy. As mum is left to establish a bond with her new foal, it will be another few days until keepers determine the sex of the new arrival.

This is the ass’ second foal to be born at Marwell after she gave birth to a female foal in 2013. First-time dad Lars arrived from Safari de Peaugres in France in April last year.

The birth of the foal is a huge boost to a species that has been on the critically endangered list since 1996, with estimates suggesting that there could be around 600 left in the wild today.

Animal Collection Manager Ian Goodwin said:

'This is a great achievement for Marwell. We are one of only three collections in the UK holding a breeding herd of African wild ass, which makes its arrival so important. We are all really proud to see this wonderful new addition doing so well.'

The wild population of the African wild ass is based in the harsh and remote lands of Eritrea or Ethiopia. It is unknown whether there are any left in Somalia. Marwell has always been key in the conservation of this special breed and the first-ever British born African wild ass was born at Marwell in 1996.

Marwell Zoo prices

Summer at Ashford Designer Outlet

With summer in full swing, where better to enjoy the sun than at McArthurGlen Designer Outlet Ashford, where shoppers will find a series of complimentary events to entertain and delight the whole family.

The centre has been transformed into a destination of family fun, where visitors can enjoy an open-air summer festival garden area complete with an ice cream stand and giant games including Connect 4 and Jenga. There will be a Kid’s Reading Corner packed full of favourite titles, plus the chance to quite literally walk on water with giant inflatable Water Walkers.

The centre will also be welcoming some of the area’s most talented musicians, performing regular sets every Saturday throughout the day, with Ashford Introduces… a ‘Battle of the Bands’ style search for the best talent on social media. Musicians either solo or bands - can audition by emailing a YouTube or audio clip to The Summer Social will officially launch on Saturday 22nd July, and will run until Sunday 3rd September, with a unique calendar of events being held every Tuesday, Wednesday and Thursday between 11am and 4pm.

Top family events at Ashford Designer Outlet

Keyboard Wizard – Thursday 3rd and Tuesday 22nd August

Become a keyboard wizard at the centre’s mobile music school, with mini lessons from an in-house musician on his keyboard, before kids will get a chance to try out a tune on the giant floor version.

Summer Badge Making – Wednesday 26th July, Thursday 10th and Tuesday 29th August

Little ones will love these colourful badge-making workshops. Choose from either a summer design or let the creativity flow and start from scratch.

Digital Graffiti – Tuesday 1st, Wednesday 16th and Thursday 31st August

All the fun of spray painting without the mess, this electronic spray can produces ‘graffiti’ on the screen right in front of your eyes. Suitable for those aged six years and over but with a little help younger children can also enjoy. Bookable by emailing

Design a Festival Tee - Thursday 27th July, Tuesday 15th and Wednesday 30th August

Let the kids unleash their inner fashion designer and get creative making their own T-shirts - the only limit will be their imagination!

Bubble Craft – Wednesday 2nd and Thursday 16th August

Who doesn’t love bubbles? Blowing bubbles, painting pictures with bubbles, simply having fun with bubbles – hours of messy summer fun! (Aprons included)

Spin Art – Wednesday 9th and Wednesday 23rd August

Have you ever seen the art of spin painting? Discover what it’s all about at Ashford Designer Outlet this summer. Guaranteed to make kids giggle.

DJ Workshop – Tuesday 25th, Wednesday 9th and Thursday 17th

Learn to spin some tunes on the decks with this introduction on how to be a master DJ - a unique opportunity to learn the craft of mixing sounds and tunes. Bookable by emailing

Several of the centre’s restaurants and caf├ęs will also be offering great deals throughout July and August and Pizza Express, Patisserie Valerie, and Wagamama are getting into the summer spirit with special menus and offers.

On top of all this, the centre is also home to over 80 premium, high street and designer brands including Barbour, Abercrombie & Fitch, All Saints, Timberland, Jack Wills and Diesel and offers amazing year-round savings of up to 60&% off RRP.

The centre has extended its opening hours for the summer months and will be open from Monday to Saturday from 9am – 8pm and on Sunday from 10am – 6pm.

Friday, 14 July 2017

Local girl creates Wonderland at Borde Hill

Borde Hill Garden

A Sussex based schoolgirl has added to the scene of fun and adventure for children at Borde Hill this Summer, by creating an Alice in Wonderland Trail. Sixteen year old Gabriella FitzGerald, who lives near Borde Hill, devised the Trail around the stunning Garden and wrote the riddles to be solved, as part of her work towards a silver level Duke of Edinburgh Award. Children can also enjoy spotting the artworks, dotted around the Garden as part of the 2017 Sculpture Trail, such as Floating Feathers, A Herd of Deer, The Flute Player and Charismatic Owl, to make children believe they really are in Wonderland!

Gabriella FitzGerald

Andrew John Stephenson Clarke, the fourth generation of Stephenson Clarkes to have lived at Borde Hill said:

'We are delighted by Gabriella’s hard work and the charming riddles and clues that she’s come up with, which we hope many others will enjoy.'

When does it start?

Commencing on Saturday 22nd July and running throughout August, the Alice in Wonderland Trail complements some of the other more specific activities on offer, such as a Mad Hatter’s Tea Party on Friday 11th August! Other activities include Lennie the Landtrain, Saturday 22nd July, on the opening Saturday, which will take children around the Garden, face painting on Monday 31st July, comedy and games on Tuesday 15th August and Tomfoolery on Wednesday 23rd August.

Family Fun at Borde Hill

In addition there are outdoor games on the lawn, to play with every day, including Giant Jenga and Badminton, and an Adventure Playground featuring a zip wire, balance beams, swings and climbing frames. Dogs are welcome on leads, you can bring a picnic, enjoy an ice cream from the shop, and Little Ritz Vintage Tea will be on hand throughout to serve refreshments.

All activities and garden games are Free of charge (normal admission applies).

Friends of Borde Hill come Free.

Eklectica announces charity

Robin Hill's new music festival Eklectica have announced their charity for the two day event! Local charity, Challenge & Adventure, which works closely with disadvantaged children aged 12 – 19 years, has been chosen as Vectis Ventures (owners of Blackgang Chine & Robin Hill Country Park) Charity of the Year and the inaugural charity partner for Eklectica – the new boutique summer music festival with a twist – which takes place on 9th & 10th September.

James Crofts, Park Manager at Robin Hill said:

'We are proud to be supporting an inspirational charity who make such a positive difference to disadvantaged young people on the Isle of Wight. We hope our new summer music festival, Eklectica, will give Challenge & Adventure an exciting opportunity to raise both awareness of their great charity, and some much-needed funds to help them deliver their aspirations.'

Karen Eeles, Fundraising Manager at Challenge & Adventure, said:

'Challenge & Adventure work with disadvantaged and challenging young Island people using adventurous outdoor activities and tailored support to build their confidence, raise their self-esteem and help them to re-engage at school, at home and in the community.

 'The charity relies on donations, grants and the generosity of volunteers to continue its work. We are very excited to be working with Vectis Ventures, helping out with events throughout the year. It will be good for our charity, volunteers, supporters and staff to work with these two fabulous, experienced local attractions and give something back to the Island Community.'

Challenge & Adventure will have young people and volunteers supporting event operations at Eklectica and will also be fundraising from their event stall and throughout the festival site all weekend. Details of how to volunteer on behalf of Challenge & Adventure at Eklectica will be available shortly. Please visit the website or follow their social media channels for more information.

Eklectica is also proud to welcome two other Island charities to the festival: Daisy Chains, which supports Island children and their families with travel costs to mainland hospitals for vital treatment, appointments and therapy. Look out for the Daisy Chain Tea Tent to show your support. The Isle of Wight Food Bank which will be running a clothing thrift shop to raise vital funds to support those struggling with food poverty and crisis on the Isle of Wight.

As the nominated Vectis Ventures Charity of the Year, Challenge & Adventure will receive 100% of all money raised through collection boxes and other fundraising efforts at both Blackgang Chine and Robin Hill Country Park, plus fundraising at Eklectica.

Thursday, 13 July 2017

Summer entertainment at Robin Hill and Blackgang Chine

Robin Hill's Gardens

With the summer holidays fast approaching, Blackgang Chine and Robin Hill, the Isle of Wight's leading tourist attractions, are open late with additional fun and entertainment for the enjoyment of visitors all day and into the night too! Plus, with ‘unlimited 7 day unlimited returns’ and all the additional summer evening entertainment included within every ticket, visitors are guaranteed a great value, full week of fun. And if you can’t decide which park to visit, then why not save money with a joint park ticket.

Blackgang Chine and Robin Park joint ticket.

Great Summer Entertainment In The Land of Imagination...

Visitors to Blackgang Chine are in for a real treat with dinosaur fun, cowboy shenanigans and late night entertainment planned for the enjoyment of all the family this summer. As well as the park’s eclectic mix of attractions, magical theme worlds and rides, our dodos – Lady Penelope & Raphus – and mischievous baby Trex dinosaurs – Shadow & Sheila – will be roaming the park on selected days, causing all sorts of mayhem! See below to see what's on throughout the summer at Blackgang Chine.

New for 2017

There is a brand new magical theme world, Underwater Kingdom, where all is make believe! Hold your breath …. and dive into the land of imagination where you’ll discover a magical underwater cave, vibrant luminescent coral reef, an abandoned sunken shipwreck and colourful larger than life animatronic sea creatures as you venture into the deep …. where the biggest mammal of them all will be found floating above you!

Magical Monday Nights - every Monday from 24th July – 28th August. 

 (Park open from 10am – 8.30pm) Join all your favourite Blackgang characters for an enchanting of entertainment. Discover our brand NEW Dinosaur Encounters show hosted by our very own Victorian explorers! Enjoy our magical Fairy Showtime performance with our Fairy Queen and her Fairy helpers. Gather round for mischievous storytelling with our mystical dragon, Cedric and his friends. Plus don’t miss the Magical Monday finale …an amazing Illusion show which promises a jaw-dropping performance … you won’t believe your eyes!

Blackgang’s Big Night Out Fireworks Extravaganza - every Wednesday night from 26th July – 30th August. (Park open 10am – 9.30pm) 

 Our famous fireworks nights are back with a bang! The fun starts at lunchtime with a ‘live’ Cowboy Showdown; we’re talking ‘real’ shoot outs and ‘live’ explosives! Plus, keen an eye out for impromptu shoot-outs taking place during the day; who will you side with, the ‘goodies’ or the ‘baddies’? And when the town eventually calms down, why not take some time out and have a go at wild west dancing! Yee-haw! Plus there’s a NEW Shadow & Sheila dinosaur show from Blackgang’s resident T-rexs! The evening fun and entertainment continues with circus workshops, an amazing NEW fire show, BBQ and to bring your day to a spectacular end … an awe inspiring musical firework display set off from the cliff edge!

Swashbuckling Sundays – every Sunday from 30th July – 27th August (Park open 10am – 6pm)

Blackgang Chine is being hijacked by Pirates! Join Captain Cliff Edge and his first mate for some good old swash-buckling fun. Learn how to sword fight like a true Blackgang buccaneer, take part in the treasure hunt and sing sea shanties with the crew. OR why not join our team of ‘divers’ and explore the secrets of our new Underwater Kingdom.

For full programme of events visit

Amazing Days & Stunning Nights at Robin Hill

Experience amazing days and stunning nights this summer at Robin Hill when the park stays open to visitors late every Tuesday & Thursday until 10pm, starting 25th July – 31st August, with ride attractions and play areas open late into the evening. …… and of course, the beautiful woodland illuminations from dusk.  See below to see what's on throughout the summer at Robin Hill.

New for 2017

Experience exciting new fun on our Canopy Skywalk with the new Squirrel Run – where you can squirrel your way through a spiralling mesh tube suspended around our Canopy Skywalk, high up in the tree tops …… just don’t look down! Plus our new Skywalk Net Bridge - an adventurous new way to get across to our Canopy Skywalk! Bounce your way across our amazing 22 metre long net bridge for even more fun high up in the tree tops… we’re talking 10 metres high up!

Squawks Olympics - every Sunday, Monday, Wednesday & Friday from 23rd July – 1st September (park open 10am – 6pm) The fun starts at 12 noon – 4pm. 

 Join our squawk birds, Bonita and Diaz, as they cause mischief and mayhem whilst hosting an exciting programme of ‘bouncy’ team games. Let the games begin! NEW for this year, Zorbing Fun, a high energy fun sport that has you encased in a large inflatable capsule, falling, bumping and rolling clumsily as you try to play a game of football or get your team across to the other side of the arena! (suitable for children aged 6 years+) Next, it’s the Squawks Knockout Course! Have a go on our very own giant inflatable obstacle course! Race your way through the tunnel, clamber up the wall and slide down the other side … wonderfully, bouncy good, fun! (All participants must be over 1 metre tall) Then test your balance in the Squawks Hopper Challenge! Try bouncing around the arena on our space hoppers … it’s harder than it looks, but great fun! (For children aged 3 years+)

It’s Carnival Time! - every Tuesday & Thursday from 25th July – 31st August (park open late until 10pm) 

Enjoy lots of high energy carnival style evening entertainment with live music, performances and Squawks summer night parade. Take part in lively Brazilian dance sessions and Samba workshops. Experience the incredible Steelasophical Steelband who will be bringing soothing Caribbean calypso vibes, plus pop up entertainment in the woodlands from live bands to a solo saxophonist. Plus don’t miss our Carnival Finale performance followed by Steelasophical’s hilarious Limbo competition! The evening will close with Wings by Twilight, a stunning falconry show. Vsitors can also enjoy a summer evening BBQ in Africa, traditional ‘Fish ’n’ Chip’ Supper in our serene woodland pond setting or relax with a drink in our Woodland Bar. Ride attractions and play areas will also be open until late. A great family night out!

 For full programme of events, please visit

Discover the Bears at Hole Park Gardens this Summer

                                                             Tree carving at Hole Park                                                             

Rolvenden's Hole Park Gardens in Kent are now open to visitors every Wednesday and Thursday until the end of October.

Visitors can enjoy all the summer blooms around the 16 acre gardens but also marvel at the new tree carving of a family of bears climbing an oak tree to reach a honey pot!

Also new this year and one of the highlights for the summer is the newly planted long herbaceous border which will take on a pink and blue theme, close to the original colours used by the late Christopher Lloyd when he first designed the border at Hole Park.

Hole Park is one of the attractions which belong to the Seven Wonders of the Weald and these delightful gardens, which are made up of formal gardens, meadows and woodland, are owned and managed by the Barham family and are considered to be one of the best gardens in Kent.

The late flowering agapanthus and exotic border with its cannas and dahlias are also at their best in the summer months.

Other areas of the garden with summer blooms include the sundial garden which is full of scented roses and clematis and the vineyard with its hydrangeas and climbing roses.

New Long Border

A circular network of hard paths enables visitors of all ages, including those with disabilities, to explore the gardens. Wheelchairs may be reserved free of charge and there are full disability WC facilities.

Light lunches and delicious homemade cakes are available in the coach house where apple juice, local beer and homemade jam and honey produced from the fruit and bees on the Hole Park Estate can be purchased. There is also a small plant stall next to the coach house.

There is a dedicated tea room for groups, free parking for cars and coaches and conducted tours can also be arranged for groups by prior arrangement.

Hole Park acts as a perfect Kent wedding venue also so make sure you consider this when thinking about that special day.

Admission: £7.00 for adults and £1 for children. The gardens are open 11am to 6pm.

Hole Park is situated 4 miles west of Tenterden on the B2086 between Rolvenden and Benenden.

Summer - 14 June to 31 October - Wednesdays & Thursdays

Autumn Sundays - 1, 8, 22 and 29 October 2017

Tuesday, 11 July 2017

Leo's Mega Mile Triumph at Blenheim Palace

Leo nearly completing his mile

Courageous teenager Leo Burbidge successfully completed his Mega Mile Challenge at Blenheim Palace to raise money for a new minibus for his school.

Leo, who lives in Woodstock and has cerebral palsy, took on the challenge of walking a mile-long course around the World Heritage Site.

Over 150 friends, family and supporters came out to cheer Leo on and helped raise more than £1,650 on the day. This figure was matched by Blenheim Palace bringing the total figure to in excess of £3,300.

A quarter of the way there - Leo has raised £10,000 already for school minibus.

To date Leo has raised over £10,000 towards the costs of the new minibus which will be in the region of £40,000.

'We could not have asked for a better day and it will stay in our memories and many others for ever,' said Leo’s mum Rachel.

'The Ormerod Base Unit at Marlborough School caters for 25 young people with all sorts of disabilities and by allowing Leo to do his challenge in the beautiful grounds of Blenheim you and the local community have come together and helped every one of them,' she said.

Leo’s challenge is being fully supported by staff at the Palace after he sent a personal letter to the Duke of Marlborough asking if he would be willing to host the event.

'We are so pleased and proud of what Leo has achieved and delighted we were able to provide him a suitably grand location for his epic challenge,' said Blenheim Palace’s Operations Director, Heather Carter.

'He is a very determined young man and has an amazing family who are supporting him all the way and we wish them all the very best of luck in reaching their target to purchase the new school bus,' she added.

To find out more about Leo’s Mega Mile Challenge and how to support it, check out this website.

Monday, 10 July 2017

Beach Life Festival set to return this weekend

Adventure-seekers are set for a sensational summer as Beach Life Festival returns to Eastbourne this weekend (15-16 July) of live music, surfer VWs and extreme sports. From daredevil BMX stunts to a two-day Roller Derby and supersized SUP Paddleboard Races, this year’s event is no exception when it comes to providing adrenaline-fueled fun for the whole family at this wonderful Sussex day out.

The jam-packed weekend features jaw-dropping stunts and fun interactive activities both on land and sea, spectators can watch in awe as extreme sport experts show off their skills across the weekend or join in with the action on selected activities!

The Inspire Show Team will be providing the ultimate adrenaline fuelled display as free runners do flips in the air and MTB Trials riders make massive leaps across structures! The professional stunt team will push the limits to provide an unforgettable viewing experience.

Rolling back onto home ground is the Eastbourne Roller Derby Event at Fisherman’s Green on both days of Beach Life Festival. This year Saturday’s game format is 'Eastbourne vs. The World' offering the Eastbourne Roller Derby’s men’s, women’s, mixed and kids teams the chance to play against local Roller Derby rivals including Brighton Rockerbillies, K-Hem and Weald Warriors.

On Sunday, the Seaside Sevens Tournament will take place where gameplay will intensify as each game can be battled by only seven players per team. Competing on Sunday is a mixture of intermediate – advanced level girls’ teams and open to all teams, both of which are always highly competitive.

My Skate World’s World Slalom Series returns with an incredible line-up as it features one of the UK’s top skaters, Chelsie Peters, along with the father and daughter skating duo, Paul and Katie Croft. Budding skaters can hone their skills, have a go at the limbo and high jump in the interactive court or try out hockey with Eastbourne Edge, the In Line Skate Hockey Club.

For those who can’t get enough of the action, Sk8 School will be continuing the fun at the Beach Life Skate Party with a Roller Disco at Eastbourne Sports Park from 2.30pm. Eastbourne Borough Council Lead Cabinet Member for Tourism and Enterprise, Cllr Margaret Bannister said:

'Beach Life Festival marks the start of summer as the seafront is lined with bright VW campervans, the music stage is full of talented performers and crowds flock to the beach for outdoor action both at land and sea!'

Headlining the watersports line-up is the XL stand up paddleboard race which will be hosted by Buzz Active. The giant boards can hold up to six people at a time and two XL paddleboards will be available for teams to race while trying to stay balanced! The races will take place from 2.30-4.30pm on Saturday and Sunday, each team will be made up of a maximum of six people per paddleboard at £30 per team. Teams must be booked in advance, for further details please call Buzz Active on (01323) 417023.

Buzz Active will also be offering taster sessions for windsurfing, sailing and stand up paddleboarding which are all led by fully qualified instructors.

Eastbourne Kayak and Surf will be giving audiences a glimpse of the latest water gadget as they demo a JetSurf, the surfboard with an engine that powers through the water without waves or wind. The JetSurf tent at the Beach Life Festival will be running a two-day raffle with the main prize being a free JetSurf lesson worth £200!

For those who prefer to leave the action to the professionals, there are plenty of spots to chill out at Beach Life Festival, including the colourful VW Bus Stop, sponsored by VW Heritage. Colourful VW Campervans will be lining the promenade on Sunday as the perfect addition to the surfer’s paradise. Adding to the festival vibes is SunSonic who will be bringing the soundtrack with DJs – including JellyFunk, performers and dancers.

Crowds watching Saturday’s Music Stage from 11am can sing along to hits from the likes of Michael Jackson and Little Mix while building their fitness as Maria Collyer leads a ‘Swoove’ class. The popular gym class has crowds singing, whooping and moving to the music they love, while burning up to 800 calories an hour!

Ungrateful Dad, The Fo’ Shos and Cardboard Hit are just a handful of the headlining acts on the music stage across Saturday and Sunday for audiences to dance along to.

On Saturday at Princes Park a community fun day will be in full swing with performances, art workshops, a discovery trail and more, organised by the Friends of Princes Park and Same Sky. The entertainment continues with a music stage featuring live performances on Saturday from 12.30-7pm with Beach Life Festival returning to the stage on Sunday.

New Shape Revealed for Summer Maize Maze at Penshurst Place

For families looking for something fun to do in the summer school holiday – why not pop along to Penshurst Place and Gardens to get lost in a field of maize.

The #PenshurstMaizeMaze is back once again with a brand new design to challenge you. This year the maze has been cut in the shape of the ancient Sidney Oak tree, which has been proudly standing on the estate for around 1,000 years and has self-seeded a new sapling to take over its watch of the house. Open daily from 15th July – 3rd September, the Maze will be ready and waiting for you to discover its concealed corridors and clues hidden within.

Offering hours of eco-fun for all the family the Maize Maze has two routes to unravel, one for younger visitors with a shorter 10-minute journey time and a larger, more challenging option for intrepid explorers. Don’t forget to pick up a flag on your way in to wave in case you need rescuing and a fun game card to collect clues and stamps as you travel the winding corridors.

Can you crack the new Maize Maze at Penshurst Place or will you get lost in its winding walkways and secret shortcuts? Find out at one of the best days out in Kent this summer!

The Loxwood Joust shows support for charity

With less than one month to go until the one of the most spectacular mediaeval festival returns on the 5th, 6th, 12th and 13th August, The Loxwood Joust is delighted to announce its support of local charity Chestnut Tree House.

This well-known local charity will be providing entertainment for all in the Children’s Kingdom and for the cost of a groat, are giving children the opportunity to Pelt The Peasant, or Parent, with wet sponges. The Loxwood Joust then exchanges all groats for cash and the more peasants pelted, the more funds secured for the charity!

Chestnut Tree House is the children's hospice for East and West Sussex, Brighton and Hove and South East Hampshire, caring for 300 children and young adults from 0-19 years of age with progressive life-shortening conditions.

This is the third year that the Loxwood Joust has supported Chestnut Tree House, with £500 and £400 being raised for charities at the Pelt The Peasant attraction in the past two years.

Jayne Todd, Community Fundraiser at Chestnut Tree House said:

‘We are thrilled to be a part of the Loxwood Joust again in 2017 and look forward to seeing you all in the Children’s Kingdom!’ So step back in time and experience the verve and vigour of a world where lives were harsh and hearts were passionate at this unique, fun and educational day out for all the family.'

Don't miss this fantastic day out in West Sussex from 5th August!

Thursday, 6 July 2017

Visitors Flock to Sit With Jane Austen

Basingstoke's 'Sitting With Jane' is proving extremely successful for Hampshire visitors as the creative art trail encourages people to follow in the footsteps of Jane Austen - writer of such books as Pride and Prejudice. Thousands of people have been visiting the unique, colourful ‘BookBenches’ enjoying original artwork and discovering sites of significance to Jane Austen’s early life and other interesting places to visit – all for free.

It's been just two weeks since this has been launched and until 30th August 24 BookBenches will be displayed around the Borough of Basingstoke and Deane and beyond, taking visitors on a fascinating tour of the area. The trail is all part of the wider celebrations of Jane Austen’s life in Hampshire on the 200th anniversary of her death.

Visitors can walk around the trail with an app that has already over 1,000 people have downloaded it for free. The trail is getting huge attention from all over the world on social media with reports of Jane Austen fans abroad travelling just to visit the trail. The app allows visitors to find and ‘unlock’ each BookBench and some special offers, vote for their favourite, upload their images and see how many other people are doing the trail.

After the end of the trail, the BookBenches will be auctioned on 15th September with proceeds to the Ark Cancer Centre Charity.

The Wild in Art project, Sitting With Jane, is being delivered by not-for-profit company Destination Basingstoke, and has been entirely funded through sponsorship including headline sponsor, Festival Place.

Trail maps can be picked up from local attractions or you can download the free app to guide you around the trail, more information is available on the website.

What are you waiting for? Take on the trail now and see the history of Jane Austen's novels and life.

Tuesday, 4 July 2017

Blenheim Palace set to welcome ‘Rally of the Giants!’

Oxfordshire's Blenheim Palace is hosting their classic car show ‘Rally of Giants’ this Sunday (9th July). This exciting gathering offers a rare opportunity for collectors and admirers to see the finest and most valuable examples of classic cars found anywhere in Europe.

Set up by the Pre-50 American Auto Club, there will be more than 400 classic American motor 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. There will be a selection of motorcars, trucks, military vehicles and bikes catered for car experts or

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.

Whether you are looking for classic cars for sale or simply just browsing, this event is one of the best in the UK for classic vehicles.

Park & Gardens ticket required: Adult £15.30, Child £7.10 (5-16 yrs)