Monday, 28 September 2015

Biddy at Luna Boutique

One of the best boutiques in town is also one of Newbury’s best kept secrets.

It’s called Luna and it has become my favourite place to shop when I’m looking for something new to wear because this little boutique is packed with the most exciting range of clothes (and handbags and jewellery) I’ve come across in a long, long time.

Now, I am the first to admit I am a big fan of M&S for lots of basic items (their jeggings have long been making an appearance in my wardrobe) but when I want something a little bit special, a little bit edgy (ooh get me) but don’t want to break the bank, Luna is the place I head for. (The husband might say I head there a little too often …)

Luna opened nearly a year ago and since then I have revamped my wardrobe with some very stylish but easy-to-wear pieces. There is lots I like about Luna:
  • The way the clothes are racked by colour, so you can head for your favourites and find lots of different styles and designs in varying shades. (Though having said that, do try other colours too … I’m usually one for muted taupes and greys but surprised myself discovering how much coral suits me.)
  • The chic Italian/French influence. Luna stocks a great range of different fashion houses, and many of their pieces have a little twist that makes them a little bit different, a little bit unusual – maybe a polka-dot pocket on a plain top, or striped sleeves on a plain tunic, or an asymmetric hemline.
  • The sizing. Very cleverly, much of what Luna stocks is in a one-size-fits-all sizing system – and believe me it really does, thanks to the fluidity of many of their styles. I’ve been in there with a friend who is a very different body shape to me (she has the curves I was never blessed with, but my legs are a lot longer!) and the same item looks good on us both. Amazing!
  • The prices. When I first went into Luna I had to look twice at the price tags – and for all the right reasons. With such unusual, original pieces, I was expecting them to be at a much higher price point. Picking up a top, for example, for around £35–£45 that you won’t see everyone else wearing is good news in my book.
  • The regularly changing stock. Luna only stocks two or three of each item, and quite often these are in different colours. So I know the chances of me seeing someone else wearing my fab new jumper are slim. And once the pieces are gone, that’s it … so my advice is: if you see it and like it, buy it, because it’s unlikely to be there next week.
  • The staff. Without exception they are friendly and helpful, always glad to suggest, advise and comment when you are trying on (endlessly patient, and happy for me to try on as many things as I want, however long it takes).
Autumn is here: I’ve just packed away my summer dresses until next year and can hardly wait to wear my new poncho, courtesy of Luna. If you are in need of some stylish new items now that weather is turning cooler, I really recommend you give Luna a try.

There’s only one thing left to tell you … what makes Luna secret is that it is tucked away behind Costa in Parkway. The perfect post-Luna coffee stop! 

Biddy x

Wednesday, 23 September 2015

Hungerford Food Festival

Hungerford Food Festival - Sunday 4 October 2015

With over 50 stalls, sizzling street food and the buzz of live cooking demonstrations, this year's Hungerford Food Festival 11am - 3.30pm Sunday 4 October promises to be another inspiring celebration of local and seasonal fare.

This year's demonstrator chefs will include best-selling What's for Dinner? cookbook author and head of the Honesty Food Group, Romilla Arber; Head Chef of Blandys@Inglewood Gert Pienaar and leftovers queen Ilja Harvey for Love Food, Hate Waste.

As usual there will be plenty for local foodies to do. Come and test your ingredient knowledge (as well as your flexibility...) on the Young Farmer's Food Challenge version of Twister. Get your pinny on and enter the Hungerford Cook-Off or take up Barney's Pumpkin Challenge: last year local head gardener Barney Barnes displayed the largest pumpkin of his crop which weighed in at a whopping 95.5 kilos. Can you beat Barney this year? More details on how to enter our competitions can be found on

Local and award-winning food and drink producers will offer a tempting array of fresh produce, local meat and game, pies, beer, cider and wine, rapeseed oil, apple juice, honey, mushrooms, cakes, artisan bread and preserves ... with many offering free tasters and samples. And there will be plenty to feast on from Secret Pizza Society's popular wood-fired pizza, Andi's Finest German sausage and T.H.Burrough's burgers to Mrs B's saucy salads, Hog Crackle hog roast and Asian street food.

Hungerford Food Festival is proud to be part of British Food Fortnight and is kindly sponsored by Doves Farm, Audley Inglewood and Cobbs Farmshop.

Entry only £1 for adults (U16s free).

For more information please visit or contact 01488 648534 or

Thursday, 10 September 2015

The Royal County of Berkshire Show: 19/20 September

With summer holidays a fading memory and autumn in the air, it’s time to look forward to The Royal County of Berkshire Show – one of the best shows of its type in the country and a wonderful weekend of entertainment for all ages.

This year’s show is on Saturday 19 and Sunday 20 September, and with gates open from 8am to 6pm on both days you can really make the best of a full day out. 

The fun-packed show takes place at its fabulous site, the enormous 150-acre Newbury Showground at Priors Court, Hermitage RG18 9QZ, right in the heart of the Berkshire countryside. It is easily accessible and well signposted for those arriving by car, east–west via the M4 and north–south via the A34. (You are advised to follow the AA signs rather than sat nav as the organisers put a special traffic management system in place to ensure you reach it by the best possible route that keeps the traffic flowing.) Alternatively, there is a bus service operating from Newbury bus station and Thatcham Broadway to the showground.

This year’s star attraction in the main arena will be world-class quad bike stuntman the Kangaroo Kid who is sure to thrill the crowds with daring wheelies, rolls and jumps. He has been known to jump over everything from a steamboat to a plane in flight!

The success of the ‘have a go’ theme of 2014 is being built on this year, with even more opportunities to try ‘taster sessions’, for example on an inflatable Army assault course, riding Segways and skateboards, learning how to milk a cow or build a den … or why not try your hand as a would-be celebrity chef in the cookery theatre?

Food is an important part of the show, and the food tent is always a big draw. Around the showground, too, will be lots of food stalls, with delicious treats to suit every tastebud.

But remaining true to its agricultural origins, a favourite feature of the show is always the livestock classes, with the best breeds of cattle, sheep, pigs and poultry coming from all over Britain. 

Horses are also a mainstay of the two days, and the show provides a great finale to Britain’s outdoor showjumping season, with some of the best international showjumpers competing. Something that will delight everyone in the main arena is the charming Shetland Pony Grand National, a qualifier for a national event for this team of small ponies and young jockeys who are making their first visit to Newbury. Other equine competitions such as scurry driving and the heavy horses are great fun and always attract large audiences.

The shopping village is highly popular and the out-of-town shopping experience offers 500 outlets. This coupled with the not-to-be-missed craft tent makes it the ideal place for a spot of early Christmas shopping.

Looking forward to his first Royal County of Berkshire Show is Daren Bowyer, who took on the role of Chief Executive of Newbury Showground earlier this year. Show Chairman is local businessman George Becknell, who has been involved with the show for four decades, and who is working alongside this year’s Show President Sir John Madejski, well known as Co-Chairman of Reading Football Club.

Entry on the day is £20 for adults, £16 for concession and £7 for children (free for under 5s), but you can make great savings by pre-booking tickets online from or purchasing from Newbury Visitor Information Centre.

Monday, 7 September 2015

Newbury Real Ale Festival 2015

4,500 people can’t be wrong. That’s how many attended Newbury Real Ale Festival last year, and what fun they had consuming 18,000 pints between them. Join them this year for what promises to be another fabulous event, and something of a musical extravaganza to boot.

The event takes place at Northcroft Fields, Newbury RG14 1RS on Saturday 12 September, with gates opening at 12 noon.

The organisers have selected the ‘best of the best’ ales and ciders from around the country, and there will be around 140 ales and 100 ciders to choose from, including those from local brewers Two Cocks, West Berkshire Brewery and Tutts Clump. (But if beer or cider is not your thing there is a selection of wines to try instead.)

Tickets can be bought on-line in advance, and included in the admission price of £10 are THREE, yes THREE, drink tokens. All drinks are bought via tokens – this speeds up serving time with no change needed – and additional drink tokens (which are non-refundable) can be purchased on site.

This is a family friendly event, so there will be a tuck shop selling snacks and soft drinks. Although the family dog is not invited, under-18s get in free but must be accompanied by an adult. Anyone lucky enough to look under 18 will need to show ID to be served alcoholic drinks.

This year there is a fantastic mix of music genres performing, from rock to reggae, from blues to indie, from dance to acoustic. The Main Stage features some of the finest tribute bands around, including Guns 2 Roses, Noasis and The Doors Alive, and original work from the likes of Echotape and In Darklight. The Tent, too, has some fabulous offerings, including from popular local artists such as Oli Hill and Jenny Bracey.

There will be plenty of opportunities to tuck in and soak up the beer, with no less than four hog roasts supplied from Graham and Charlie Plank’s Bucklebury farm. Beer and barbecues make a wonderful pairing – try America-style treats from Sal’s Smokehouse Bar-B-Q and slow-cooked delights from Pit Smoked BBQ. California Taco brings the joys of tacos, fajitas, quesadillas and the like from native Californian Laura Hunt, who now lives in Newbury. There will also be authentic wood-fired, handmade pizzas from Little Reds. Or how about a kebab or burger and chips from local seller Ghassan? And if you’ve got a sweet tooth you won’t be able to resist Crown Ice Cream.

Thanks to the sponsorship of several local companies, the festival is once again raising money for Naomi House, the local children's charity, who last year were presented with a cheque for £10,000. There are all sorts of benefits to being a sponsor – including Cider Friday, need we say more? – so if you want to be part of the mix next year, check out the website for details.

The music draws to a close at 10pm, with an expected festival finish time of 11pm when weary but happy festival-goers will be wending their way home and looking forward to the next one.

Further details of the event from 

Tuesday, 1 September 2015

Biddy at Beale Park

Have you been to Beale Park? It’s at Lower Basildon, not far from Pangbourne.

It’s a great family day out and the husband and I took our grandson DD there recently. He is pre-school and there was much there to entertain him, but it is great for bigger children too and I am sure many schoolchildren have passed through its gates over the summer holidays.

There is lots here for adults as well, so don’t for one minute think it only appeals to children. The animals are a big draw for all ages and it would be hard to choose between the ring-tailed lemurs, the meerkats and the monkeys in terms of cuteness. However, DD had different ideas and his favourite area was the one that the guinea pigs and such like call home … mainly because there is a tunnel there that he could run through, all very exciting when you are only two and a half.

They are big on birds at Beale Park, and we got to see a peahen strutting her stuff very nonchalantly with two of her brood, as if on a royal progress. We enjoyed the beautiful parrots with their flashes of bright colours and, having had a bit of read up, I learned that they actually have 120 species of birds here, one of the biggest collections in Europe. And all thanks to Mr Gilbert Beale, who in 1956 had private land converted into parkland so everybody gets a chance to enjoy it. Thank you, Mr B! 

For some time-out, the gardens are a lovely place to sit and relax or take a stroll to enjoy the water features, and there is a small museum with a model boat collection in the Pavilion. Another museum, particularly appealing to those of us of a certain generation, is Treasured Toys, where if you were a child in the 1950s, 1960s or 1970s you are sure to say, ‘I had one just like that!’ Happy days.

There were a couple of school trips underway when we visited, but you would hardly have known it as the park is so vast. The children just could not get enough of the various play parks; DD was straight in there too and had great fun on Pirate Island, and especially liked the sandpit. Then there is the 12-inch-deep paddling pool … but be warned it is a tad chilly! There are changing rooms, so remember to pack swimming gear.

Best of all for car-mad DD was the Little Tikes Village, full of the plastic houses and cars that youngsters so love. He would, I am sure, have spent all day there, but having driven every vehicle several times and run in and out of every little house, we managed to persuade him away with promises of lunch. (By the way, there is an indoor Little Tikes area too; great for rainy days.)

You can take your own picnic to Beale Park – the deer park is all geared up for this, and there is even a zipwire should you have the urge to fly above the scene. However, we opted for the Peacock Restaurant where there is plenty of seating, both inside and outside. Whilst DD had a child’s lunchbox with a variety of goodies, the husband pushed the boat out with burger and chips and I had a hot beef roll, and we both voted them very good choices.

We saved the final treat of the day to the end of our visit – a ride on the miniature narrow-gauge diesel railway; the price of one ride is included in your entry ticket. The driver was lovely and friendly, clearly enjoying his job and never tiring of waving to the children watching the train go by.

If you want a day out in Berkshire, with or without children, I would recommend a trip to Beale Park ( for more details). It definitely gets the thumbs up from me.

Biddy x