Wednesday, 23 March 2016

Newbury Artisan Market: Easter Sunday 27 March

Newbury Artisan is the town’s newest Sunday market with goods from local producers, and becomes a regular monthly feature from Easter Sunday, taking place 10am– 4pm.

Running along the pedestrianised Northbrook Street, look out for delicious edible offerings including sizzling street food to feast on there and then, and farmers’ market-style wares, such as artisan breads, local cheeses, fresh veg, hand-made pies and cakes, local beers and ciders … all great for taking home to enjoy later.

Alongside the food stalls will be original handcrafted goods and gifts from designers and craftspeople who aren’t usually on the high street. In addition, there will be fun for children, including craft activities and face painting.

Newbury Artisan was piloted in November and proved a hit with locals and visitors to the town. It offers a diverse, quality shopping experience that celebrates independent producers. Equally importantly, it creates a place where you can enjoy a day out, meet friends, eat, drink, browse and chat to the craftspeople, making for a social shopping experience.

Brought to you as a joint venture by Newbury BID and Newbury Artisan Market, the market will take place on the last Sunday of every month (with the exception of May, when it happens on the 22nd of the month).

More details from

Monday, 21 March 2016

Newbury’s Giant Easter Egg Hunt 25 March–2 April 2016

The giant Easter bunny is hopping around Newbury delivering giant Easter eggs to secret locations in the town centre, which can only mean one thing … the Giant Easter Egg Hunt is back!

Taking place from Good Friday 25 March until Saturday 2 April, this is a fabulous event for all ages.

Head for the Easter Toy Workshop in Parkway (open every day of the event 10.30am–4pm, with the exception of Easter Sunday 27 March) where there will be activities for children, including free face painting, arts and crafts, treats and toys to play with.

To participate in the Giant Easter Egg Hunt, collect an entry form from the Easter Toy Workshop in Parkway or from the main square in the Kennet Centre. Follow a trail around town – all within easy walking distance – to find 15 giant eggs and work out clues which will help you crack a secret code. Crack the code and return your form to the Easter Toy Workshop in Parkway no later than 4.30pm on 2 April.

Correctly completed forms will be entered into a fantastic prize draw: 1st prize a £150 John Lewis voucher; 2nd prize a £50 voucher for The Entertainer toyshop; 3rd prize a ‘You Crack me Up’ Easter egg from Hotel Chocolat. Prize winners will be announced on Monday 4 April.

Now in its third year, the Giant Easter Egg Hunt is fun for all the family, brought to you courtesy of Newbury BID, Parkway Shopping and Rainbows of Inches Yard, Newbury.

Monday, 7 March 2016

Wonderful West Berkshire Gardens Raise Funds For Nursing Charities

Canje Grove, Malverleys & The Old Rectory Farnborough – Wonderful West Berkshire Gardens Opening in April to Raise Funds for Nursing Charities!

Sounding like wonderful settings for novels, Canje Grove, Malverleys and The Old Rectory are in fact private gardens that are opening for charity this April. All are situated not far from Newbury, and each provides a superb opportunity to spend a relaxing afternoon out with family or friends. Enjoy walking around these stunning gardens and then round the visit off with delicious teas and cake in beautiful surroundings.

Visitors to NGS gardens will also have the benefit of knowing that their entrance fee is supporting wonderful causes. Run locally by volunteers, the National Gardens Scheme currently donates over £2.6 million annually to its beneficiary charities, which include Marie Curie, Macmillan Cancer Support, Hospice UK, and the Carers Trust.

Canje Grove, RG20 9XQ Saturday 23rd and Sunday 24th April
(2 - 5pm). Admission £3.50, children free. Home-made teas.

Yvonne & Simon Sonsino will be opening Canje Grove, their artist and flower arrangers’ garden of just over 1/3 acre on 23rd and 24th April. The garden features multiple colour and plant themed rooms, ranging from cool shady impact planting, courtyard styling near the house/art studio, raised ponds, a wooden Shepherd's hut, a small orchard, rose hedges, peonies, topiary and picket fences, to a gated vegetable garden at the rear complete with hens. In addition the art studio will be open with botanical art and calligraphy.

Malverleys, East End, RG20 0AA Sunday 24th April
(2 - 5pm) Admission £10.00, children free. Tea & cake and tour with Head Gardener included.

Malverleys offers visitors 10 acres of dynamic gardens which have been developed over the last 5 years to include magnificent mixed borders and a series of contrasting yew hedged rooms, hosting flame borders, a cool garden and a pond garden. A vegetable garden with striking fruit cages sits within a walled garden, also encompassing a white garden. Meadows open out to views over the parkland. For this garden, pre-booking is essential - please visit or phone 01483 211535 for information & tickets. Ticket availability is limited so please book early to avoid disappointment.

The Old Rectory, Farnborough, OX12 8NX Sunday 24th April
(2 - 5.30pm). Admission £5.00, children free. Home-made teas. Plant sale.

In a series of immaculately tended garden rooms, including herbaceous borders, arboretum, boules, roses, vegetable and new bog garden, there is an explosion of rare and interesting plants, beautifully combined for colour and texture. With stunning views across the countryside, it is the perfect setting for the 1749 rectory (not open), once home of John Betjeman, in memory of whom John Piper created a window in the local church.

Awarded Finest Parsonage in England by Country Life and The Rectory Society. Plants and home-made preserves for sale. If you can’t visit in April, The Old Rectory will also be open on Sunday 22 May and Sunday 12 June.

For more visitor information go to the NGS website

Biddy at The Flower Pot Café

I happened to be in Inches Yard and decided to make my first visit to the tiny café there – The Flower Pot Café.

There is just enough space for four tables and I was lucky to get the last one when I called in. There is clearly a regular clientele here, and people were coming and going collecting their lunch orders, so it was busy, buzzy and friendly.

I settled on my usual Americano, then was hard pushed to choose between chocolate cake, carrot and banana cake, brownies, croissants … but finally succumbing to a slice of yummy flapjack, packed full of nuts, chocolate and cranberries.

This is a charming little café, serving a good size cup of coffee, milk in pretty jugs and sugar in pretty basins with tongs. 

The premises may be tiny but they do a great job not only with the homemade cakes but breakfasts and lunches too.

The breakfast menu looks really good and I will make a return visit to give it a try, with options ranging from porridge with maple syrup to a full English, though what I really like the sound of is their breakfast sarnie (veggie versions available).

The lunch menu is equally tempting, with salads (such as haloumi, apple and walnut), and sandwiches, ciabattas and jacket potatoes with a good choice of fillings.

The children’s menu is very reasonable – a sandwich for £1.50 or half a jacket spud for £2.

Everything I saw being served looked really good and, as the sign says, it really does seem to be ‘Made with love’.

Do go and give The Flower Pot Café a try ... and save a slice of flapjack for me!

Biddy x

Tuesday, 1 March 2016

Newbury Spring Festival – Booking Now!

West Berkshire’s extravaganza of a musical festival happens in May but tickets are on sale from 1 March, and with so many brilliant performances planned you are advised to book early.

The first thing to be aware of is that this is no elitist music festival. With a variety of genres to choose from – and a wide variety of price-points – the Newbury Spring Festival is for anyone and everyone who enjoys music, and all are welcome.

In 2016 the Festival takes place from 7–21 May, at a variety of locations in Newbury and outlying villages. Every day for the whole fortnight there is at least one event at the Corn Exchange, and this is where you can collect a brochure for the full low-down on what’s on, where and when (there are daytime and evening performances), or look on line at

Whilst everything has a musical element, there are delights other than full-blown concerts to enjoy – some events come with a special twist.

For example, Rainer Hersch and his orchestra (above) is known for having audiences in stitches with his comic genius. Joe Stilgoe is another hot favourite, and this master of music and wit will be at The Vineyard where you can dine in style at the same time.

For jazz lovers there is not only the wonderful Clare Teal but also the National Youth Jazz Orchestra; and for guitar enthusiasts the legendary John Etheridge’s Sweet Chorus.

Quartets are a theme this year ­– including 4 Girls 4 Harps, Ferio Saxophone Quartet and The Escher Quartet – one of the USA’s leading ensembles who will perform at Englefield House, the same venue hosting none other than The Duke of Devonshire with his talk about his ancestral home, Chatsworth. Or how about hearing mega-star Elaine Paige in conversation at Andrew Lloyd Webber’s home?

For something a little edgy and different, Breaking the Rules is a part concert/part play about extraordinary 16th-century composer Carlo Gesualdo. Or how about ballet? The Royal Ballet is being screened live from the Royal Opera House with their premiere of Frankenstein.

Opera fans are catered for with a gala performance of Verdi’s Rigoletto at Combe Manor. On a lighter note the extravagent Little Baroque Company bring Bach’s Coffee Cantata to town (with coffee and cake an added temptation).

Children are well catered for too – again the Little Baroque Company lay on something special with their Tales Through Music. Sound Beginnings with Sleeping Beauty at Sheepdrove Eco Farm at Lambourn is especially aimed at babies and small children – truly the way to introduce little ones to the delights of the classics. And the delightful Hand to Mouth Theatre returns to the Corn Exchange with a charming and sweet puppet show.

With anniversaries this year of Shakespeare’s death and the Battle of the Somme, Newbury Spring Festival marks these with Stile Antico’s Touches of Sweet Harmony, celebrating The Bard, and international British baritone Christopher Maltman with The Solider – from Severn to Somme; a perfect opportunity to hear his magnificent voice in a local venue.

For lovers of everything classical there is a huge choice – from the City of Birmingham Symphony Orchestra to the remarkable young pianist Benjamin Grosvenor, from the Moscow State Symphony Orchestra to the Vienna Piano Trio, and from the Royal Philharmonic Orchestra to award-winning choir Tenebrae performing Russian Treasures.

On the subject of choirs, everyone who loves to sing is invited to the ‘Sing Your Heart Out’ workshop, to rehearse and later perform with the Newbury Spring Festival Choir – guaranteed to be a fun day.

But that’s not all, so do pick up a brochure or look on-line to find out what else is in store.

Box office 0845 5218 218