Sunday, 31 May 2015

Silent Sunday 31.5.15

Sunrise over Great early morning this week promoting, the walking and cycling challenge coming to the town from 22.6 to 21.7!

Thursday, 28 May 2015

Hertfordshire Walking challenge!

Do you know anyone in Hemel who would like to take part?

(Or #Broxbourne, #Hemel or #Stevenage!)

Thanks to the Newmarket Journal!

Wednesday, 27 May 2015

On the menu

Our cooking tips appeared in a number of wedding supplements - advice on how the best way to approach the food for your big day!


Tuesday, 26 May 2015

Athena Network West Berkshire - June 2015

Deb Lester-George from the West Berkshire Business Awards will be encouraging members of the Athena Network to enter the prestigious competition when she speaks at the Newbury Athena group on Wednesday 17th June.

The meeting takes place at La Tasca and Debbie Miles will also discuss how Stephen Covey’s ‘Seven Habits of Effective People’ can be applied to networking.

The Hungerford group meets at Audley Inglewood on Friday, 12th June where there will be a talk about ‘sales confidence’, and the Thatcham group meets at the Regency Park Hotel on Tuesday, 16th June where Dale Campbell of Trademark Tribe will be talking about intellectual property and how not to get ripped off.

Debbie Miles, regional director of the West Berkshire Athena Network, said: “We’re looking forward more networking, collaboration and support. All meetings take place from 12pm to 2pm. For more information, contact Debbie Miles @athenawberksdeb



A £100,000 refurbishment is underway at Mitchells Renault in Lowestoft to ensure the Long Road showroom meets the marque’s latest corporate standards called “Renault STORE”.

The renovation work will take place in three distinct phases in order to minimise disruption to customers and should be completed in July. Once finished, Mitchells will be one of the first Renault showrooms in the UK to have the new corporate identity.

The new-look showroom will have a digital focus with five large video screens, and a more relaxed style. Customers are able to personalise the interiors and exteriors of their new vehicles, so staff will be equipped with iPads as well as desktop computers.

Three separate zones will be created within the dealership; a new car zone, a ZE zone for Renault’s electric vehicles and a Dacia zone. There will be free wifi throughout the showroom and the aftersales department will be rendered more informal and comfortable with the removal of the service counter.

Matthew Huke-Jenner, owner and managing director, said: “We’ve invested in creating a showroom that really complements exciting models such as the Clio, Captur and the forthcoming Kadjar, that will grace our dealership in this, our 40th anniversary year. We want to ask our loyal customers to bear with us and to apologise for the disruption.

“It will all be worth the wait as the new showroom will help make the customer experience more hi-tech, relaxed and comfortable.

“When it’s finished, we’ll be holding a launch weekend, so please watch this space for an announcement!”

The Mitchells showroom should look like this when complete.

Sunday, 24 May 2015

Silent Sunday 24.5.15

Beat the Street photography this


Tuesday, 19 May 2015

Wordsworth Hotel

Just found one of our press releases here...For publication names, it's up there with the Falmouth Packet and the Banbury Cake....

Thursday, 14 May 2015

Eight fashion tips for Royal Ascot

Milliner Emma Moscow and I wrote these tips for Royal Ascot when you're having a "what to wear" type panic!

Monday, 11 May 2015

The Living Leader inspires Ride 999 cycle event participants

Newbury-based leadership experts at The Living Leader are taking part in a new cycling event crossing nine countries in nine days to raise money for young people in crisis.

Penny Ferguson, an internationally-renowned authority on leadership, will be giving a keynote motivational speech before the event and decided to give her backing in order to share her leadership know-how with a younger audience.

Her daughter Emma Littmoden, who is also commercial director at the Living Leader, will be cycling on day five of the event which takes in 96 miles from Luxembourg to Nancy.

The author of The Living Leader and 52 Brilliant Ideas – How to Transform your life, is supporting Get Connected, the UK's only free helpline for children and young people under 25 who need help for any issue and don't know where to turn.

Penny said: “If there is one refrain that I hear again and again when I am running my Personal Leadership Programme, it is ‘I wish I had learnt this when I was younger’.

“At The Living Leader we are passionate about helping young people and that is why we are now to sponsor ‘Get Connected’ – an amazing organisation that provides help to many, many disadvantaged young people – I wish it had been in existence when I was growing up.

“I know with an absolute certainty that if we can give young people the opportunities to be heard, to be supported, to be given the skills that will enable them to motivate themselves, they can become outstanding leaders of tomorrow.”

Penny now in her 70s, was left broke after three divorces and has gone from being a housewife with no self-confidence to the Living Leader.

“Growing up I guess I was pretty confused about what I wanted to be or do, either at work or play. My mother had run off when I was a few months old and I met her for the first time at 18. My self-esteem was incredibly low and at the age of 50 I had finally come out of three pretty abusive marriages, was in debt and altogether a pretty good mess.

“It was only then that I began to discover my real purpose and the last 20 years have been an amazing journey of learning, succeeding, real joy and a feeling of true worth. Apart from having six beautiful children I would have to consider that much of those 50 years were wasted even though I have taken much of that time as painful learning that I can use to this very day.

“Now, supposing there had been people that I could talk to when I had been in the painful early stages of discovering who I really was and how I could move past the really unhelpful beliefs that then held me back for so many years. I am very certain that my life would have turned out differently and maybe I would have quickly learnt how to avoid such obvious repeating patterns of abuse. I could have truly changed my thinking and certainly changed my life.”

The Ride 999 challenge sees a team of cyclists cover nine countries (the UK, Netherlands, Belgium, Luxembourg, France, Germany, Switzerland, Austria and Italy) in nine days covering 900 miles. The aim is to raise £350,000 to directly help 250,000 children and young people across the UK in crisis.


For more information on Get Connected, visit

Nathalie Danon-Kerr is on the run in Just Because I love

Saturday, 9 May 2015

Sigyta Hart, acupuncturist

A few weeks ago, some of us at The Athena Network featured in an advertising spread in the NWN.

I was approached by a couple of people who asked me to write their bio pieces. After all, it's much easier for me, subjectively, to put into words the benefits they bring to their customers and also to say how wonderful they are - women can worry that what they are saying about themselves sounds like bragging! Sometimes, when you have your head down running your business and know what you do inside-out, it can be hard to write a short piece about yourself and your work.

I thought I would share here the words I wrote about Sigyta Hart, an acupuncturist. Sigyta is an exceptionally kind and knowledgeable woman who is a great listener. She has helped countless people with a range of ailments and is currently busy helping people with hay fever who don't want to rely on anti-histamines.

I can't recommend Sigyta highly enough, and thank you for working with me.

"Sigyta Hart is passionate about improving women’s health and well-being using her knowledge and experience with Chinese and Japanese acupuncture and herbal medicine.

She said: “Women tend to do everything – working, raising a family and looking after others, often at the expense of their own health. Acupuncture is a holistic treatment which helps harmonise women’s hormones and balances mind, body and energy.”

Sigyta has years of experience in acupuncture for infertility supporting women preparing for and undertaking IVF, although many conceive without embarking on the protocol and has helped with the conception of 104 babies.

She helps women of all ages with migraines, seasonal allergies, digestive problems, arthritis, Chronic Fatigue Syndrome (ME) as well as long-term illnesses and people who feel unwell but have not been diagnosed.

She is fully qualified in traditional Chinese Medicine following training in Hong Kong in the 1980s.

Sigyta, a member and practitioner of the British Acupuncture Council and the Register of Chinese Herbal Medicine, works in Cheap Street, Newbury and Wallingford Hospital."


Thursday, 7 May 2015

FD at Arlington Arts 25.4.15

That Ferocious Dog review.....

Ferocious Dog with support from the Engineers at Arlington Arts on April 25

By the second song on the set list, a large group of devoted fans of Celtic folk punk giants Ferocious Dog were already shirtless and giving it their best mosh-pit moves. By the end of the set, we’d witnessed a unique display of human-stacking in the mosh-pit and at least one shirtless woman in the crowd.

For all the goings-on on the dance floor, that’s not to detract from the superb and energetic 90-minute set from Ferocious Dog at Arlington Arts on Saturday night. It’s testament to the upward trajectory of the Nottinghamshire-based six-piece that fans, known as the Hell Hounds, had travelled to the venue from as far afield as Manchester to see the band do what they do best – that is, political, heartfelt lyrics, combined with sometimes punk, sometimes reggae guitar, with rocking bass, mandolin and topped off with frenetic fiddle.

Despite the raucous atmosphere, lead singer Ken Bonsall was still able to hold the crowd spellbound as he told the story behind The Glass. Belying its upbeat and catchy nature, the song was written for his son Lee who tragically killed himself following a tour of duty in Afghanistan. The band raises money for the charity they set up to support ex-servicemen who suffer from post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) called The Lee Bonsall Memorial Fund.

With tracks from their soon-to-be-released second album proving to have as much as vigour and power as their first, Ferocious Dog combined successfully combined new songs, a couple of covers; Raggle Taggle Gypsy and an impromptu Paddy Works on the Railway, plus sweat. A lot of sweat.

Excellent support from local talent the Engineers.

First appeared in NWN!

Wednesday, 6 May 2015

Peake House cutting

Found this while having a coffee in a café today!

here's the online version:



Education charity Intergen’s oldest volunteer, 101-year-old Gus Bialick, is appearing on a four-part BBC documentary entitled “Britain’s Greatest Generation”.

Set to be broadcast on Friday at 9pm on BBC2, the programme features the last living survivors who lived through or fought in World War Two.

Inspirational Gus, son of Jewish refugees, fought in the Allied Invasion of Sicily codenamed Operation Husky. He made a career as a tailor and is the first centenarian to take part in the Intergen programme, an innovative project which brings older people into primary and secondary schools to talk about their life experiences and share their skills.

Intergen was set up by Professor Norma Raynes, with the aim of breaking down intergenerational stereotypes and barriers between old and young and generating well-being in local communities. Norma set up Intergen in 2010 so schoolchildren could benefit from the knowledge and experience of older people, while older people could enjoy the interaction and social inclusion the project offers.

Gus signed up after he happened to sit next to one of the charity’s co-ordinators Maria Hall, on a park bench and was then invited in regularly to visit Morpeth Secondary School near his home in Wapping. Now he regularly speaks to children about his first-hand account of Zeppelin raids during the First World War, 1930s marches by the Fascist Blackshirts in the East End of London and his part in the Operation Husky campaign.

Norma is an advocate of building strong communities in which young and older people find opportunities to assist each other and nothing is wasted.

She said: “I decided to find ways to bring the generations together after doing research about older people, social exclusion and the quality of their lives. We have some fascinating volunteers who provide a wealth of living history to schoolchildren, while at the same time enjoying being a valued part of the community. Gus is an exceptional, yet modest man who has many incredible life stories which we’re privileged to share.”


For more information about Intergen or to arrange an interview with Norma Raynes or Gus Bialick, please contact me at @margaretmcdpr

#journorequest #prrequest

Sunday, 3 May 2015

What's on at The Athena Network in May...

The Athena Network’s Newbury north group is celebrating its sixth birthday with champagne and chocolates.

The meeting, which takes place on Wednesday, 13th May at the Donnington Valley Hotel, will also be a ‘visitors’ day’ where local businesswomen are invited to try out a networking lunch.

The speaker will be Laura Cooper from Pink Spaghetti PA services on how to save an extra hour in the day by ‘digitally decluttering’. In the networking strategy training Debbie Miles, regional director of the Athena Network will be discussing ‘how to be remembered after a networking event’.

The Hungerford event takes place at Audley Inglewood on Friday, 8th May where Deborah Lester-George will talk about the West Berkshire Business Awards while Debbie Miles will be suggesting “20 ways to increase your social capital!”

The Thatcham meeting takes place at the Regency Park Hotel on Tuesday, 19th May where Kate Talbot of Shore Financial Planning will be encouraging members to ‘think ahead’ asking how their businesses would continue and the knock on effect on family, if they are temporarily or permanently absent from the business.

The Newbury South meeting takes place at La Tasca on Wednesday, 20th May where Nicki Lee from Elysium Massage will discuss how stress can be good for business. In the network strategy training, members will discuss how stepping out of your comfort zone can enhance business success.

Debbie Miles, regional director for the West Berkshire Athena Network said: “As well as lunch, networking and support, we also offer our members network strategy training with a wealth of business topics.”

All meetings take place from 12pm to 2pm.

Friday, 1 May 2015

Peake House - register office to elegant family home

Not many people can claim that hundreds of couples have tied the knot in their living room or that their house was for decades a vital destination for thousands of West Berkshire residents.

Peake House closed its doors as a register office in November 2006, but almost ten years later, Clare and Jason Sheffield still regularly find people on their doorstep looking to register a newborn baby.

While most Newbury residents will have passed through its doors for a wedding or to register a birth or death, only a select few will have seen it since it was restored to its original use as a four bedroom private home.

The detached property on Newtown Road started life as a private home called Winton House in 1897 but was bought by the then Berkshire County Council in 1949.

The house was named after Harold Peake, who was chairman of the Berkshire County Council Elementary Education Sub-Committee and the county libraries committee and is best remembered for nearly four decades as honorary curator of Newbury’s museum.

The house is now owned by Clare Sheffield, a designer who runs S&T Design, her husband Jason and their two young daughters. Until they moved in four years ago, they lived just yards away from the property, never realising that one day it would be their dream home.

Clare is an award-winning designer who has worked with Crabtree & Evelyn, Fortnum and Mason and is the creative brains behind the branding of the Sainsbury’s Basics range. As she works from home, she needed a calm, light-filled studio to inspire her, combined with a family living area with a flexible and open plan layout.

Bringing the offices up-to-date and converting it into an elegant, contemporary house was not without its challenges though. Having spent so many years as council offices, there was a warren of rooms, suspended polystyrene ceilings, a thick vault door and woodchip wallpaper to contend with. Additionally, the original staircase had been mercilessly hacked in half and an ugly 1970s fire screen added across the top.

The couple worked with Kate Cooper of Absolute Architecture, an award-winning architect who specialises in residential properties, as well as friend and neighbour. Kate understood the family’s needs and the balance between retaining the house’s character while ensuring it worked for the Sheffields. As it had been used as office space for some years, she had to look beyond the faded carpets and plasterboard to visualise the spaces as domestic ones.

It was Kate too who found the property for the couple. She said: “I had a good feel of what they were looking for, so this house was actually only the third property we looked at.
When the site put up for sale by West Berkshire Council, various uses were suggested, including a GP or dentist surgery, a vets or a school. Plans were even submitted to convert it into two blocks of flats with no parking, but we knew it would be perfect as a family home as there was no need to extend; it just needed someone to see its potential and to make better use of the space.”

Clare was struck by the amount of natural light and the feeling of calm and fell in love with the property. The couple were so keen to start work that they stopped off on the way home from hospital after the birth of baby Harriette (now aged three) just before they took possession of the keys to have one final look before they moved in.

The office-like façade with creepers has been replaced with a fresh “heritage grey” exterior and the room that hosted thousands of civil and marriage ceremonies is now their living room. The reception area and back office have been opened up and are now a dream kitchen with windows overlooking the child-friendly garden which was previously the office car park.

Kate added: “There was a balance in that you have to decide how far to go to reinstate the original features and proportions while understanding the flexible layouts and open plan way people live now.”

The very room where Kate herself had been interviewed at Peake House prior to her own marriage was converted into a spacious child’s bedroom, with fireplace reinstated and the neighbouring family bathroom is unrecognisable from its former use as a staff kitchenette and toilets.

Clare said: “It took tremendous skill from Kate. The back of the house is essentially a flat roof with extension added on by the council in the 1980s) and originally felt like a rabbit warren with toilets and interview rooms everywhere. She had to think about how to use this space and integrate it without it feeling like a bolt-on.

“Kate understood our brief perfectly and wasn’t afraid to do things that might be considered unconventional such as transforming a room off one of the bedrooms and opening it up into the landing to make it expansive and full of light. It was so much more than just turning the building into a beautiful architectural space - Kate was interested in how we live and function.”


Vici Language Academy takes language learning online with i.vici

Vici Language Academy takes language learning online with i.vici

VICI Language Academy in Newbury has launched an online language learning service to help busy linguists.

The innovative platform, called i.vici, allows users to be taught by a native speaker at home or on the move, making it ideal for time--strapped business people who are learning a foreign language or anyone who finds it difficult to commit to a set timetable of lessons.

Languages include French, Spanish, Italian, Portuguese, German, Polish, Russian and English.

The VICI Language Academy owner, Nathalie Danon-Kerr, said the innovative system was implemented to help people who want the flexibility of an online course combined with the interactive nature of a classroom-based lesson.

Nathalie said: “We have lots of thriving business classes on our timetable, and we also visit workplaces to deliver lessons, but we felt that we needed an additional option for people on the move.

“So far, our students have used i.vici from the sofa, from the office and even from a coffee shop.”

Rachael Griffiths, a student at VICI, who was invited to trial the new system, said; “If what is stopping you learning a language is childcare or having to travel, this is the answer. In four weeks, I have learnt the Russian alphabet and can now read and understand how to pronounce things. In just four hours using this method, I can count in Russian, greet people, describe terms using colours and understand basic questions. The language coaches on i.vici are brilliant and his allows you to learn with them wherever you are.”

To find out more about VICI Language Academy, visit