Articles written by Alison Neale, The Proof Fairy
Classic food from an award-winning team at The Blowing Stone (written for publication in Focus on Wantage 2010)
Set on the edge of the Berkshire Downs, in the pretty village of Kingston Lisle, you’re in for a treat if you stumble across The Blowing Stone. Under new management since last August, the pub specialises in real ales and serves up a great menu of high quality, locally sourced food.
Angus and Stephanie Tucker previously managed the White Horse in nearby Woolstone, and have now joined forces with award-winning chef Robbie Ellis to bring their unique menu of home cooked classics to The Blowing Stone. The pub has become the favourite haunt of the local horseracing community; pop in for a pint and you’re likely to see champion trainers and jockeys dining there! Real ale drinkers won’t be disappointed with the selection of beers on offer, either.
However, food is the real attraction of The Blowing Stone. The lunch and dinner menus range from simple homemade soups and salads to steaks, pies, curries, risottos and fish, and the desserts are irresistible too. Those looking for a lighter bite for lunch might fancy a filled baguette and cup of soup, or the antipasti. On Sundays there are always three roasts - beef, pork and lamb - at lunchtime, as well as a variety of other dishes including pasta and fish. The menu changes regularly and the food is sourced from local suppliers wherever possible and is all cooked on the premises - everything from the horseradish sauce upwards is made from scratch, from fresh ingredients. The food is all reasonably priced but on the second Tuesday of the month there’s a special £10 dinner offer which definitely gives great value for money.
Although The Blowing Stone is a traditional village pub, it’s no “ye olde inn” as it has a light and airy, contemporary feel about it. As well as the bar and dining areas there’s a large sunny conservatory which caters for up to 60 people and can be booked for wedding receptions or special occasions. The Blowing Stone holds regular events, such as wine tasting and special occasion lunches, and is family- and dog-friendly. There is also a large, attractive garden, perfect for evening drinks or a leisurely summer Sunday lunch.
The Blowing Stone, Kingston Lisle, Wantage OX12 9QL Tel: 01367 820288
Business networking - what’s that all about? (written for Networking Women’s blog (www.networkingwomen.org.uk), June 2010)
Business networking. That’s where you put on a suit, visit a room of strangers armed with a ton of business cards, and flog them your services, isn’t it? Scary stuff! If that’s what comes to mind when someone mentions business networking, then either you’ve been doing it all wrong, or going to the wrong places! In fact, networking is not about sales at all, not in the beginning anyway. It’s about creating a network around your business, and building relationships with other business owners. It’s about getting to know people, finding out about them and their business, and becoming friends with them. And then, when you’ve developed a strong relationship with them, it can be about selling your services – or buying theirs – but you’ll both be doing it because you like and trust each other, not because you feel you have to. The secret to successful networking is all in the way you approach it. If you go to a meeting with one aim in mind – to sell your services and make money – then I’m sorry, but it’s not going to work! Very few people like to be pressured into a sale and in fact, you’ll be pushing people away rather than engaging with them! Networking is not a quick fix solution with instant success; it’s more a slow burner that takes time and effort and commitment to work. Going to one meeting is not going to win you business – you need to stick at it, go back to meetings regularly and get to know people. It won’t be long before you start building relationships and developing your network. Then, when the time is right and people need what you can offer, you’ll find them coming to you – not because you’re the cheapest, but because they understand your business and they like and trust you. So next time you go to a business networking event, don’t go thinking about making sales. Go with an open mind, a smile on your face and a desire to meet new people … and then sit back and watch your business network grow.
TENANT VETTING (Web copy written for One Stop Tracing & Recoveries (www.one1stop.co.uk) May 2010)
Being a landlord isnâ€™t easy. When youâ€™re busy maintaining a property, arranging safety checks and certificates and advertising for tenants, choosing a tenant seems to be the easy part. In fact, vetting your tenants is the most important part of the whole process. Make a mistake now and choose the wrong person, and you could be setting yourself up for a difficult time. The trouble is, not everyone is as honest as you. Tenants with a less than favourable past may give you false information to cover up a poor employment history, a string of bad debts or even a criminal record. If you let a commercial property to a business, its ability to pay rent on time could be affected by the success of that business or even by the fluctuating economy. This is where ONE STOP tenant vetting comes into its own. Our tenant vetting service will not only confirm that the prospective tenant is who they say they are, but will compare their details with a range of information databases to verify that what they tell you is actually correct. Our vetting process will also check that the tenant lives and works at the addresses they give you. For commercial tenants, the vetting checks will look at whether the company is legitimate, who the directors are and if they have any CCJs, bankruptcies or injunctions against them. As a landlord, you may think that vetting your tenants is an unnecessary expense. Without vetting, though, you could find yourself with a tenant who costs you far more. Using our tenant vetting service will help you finding the perfect tenant, and you could even pass the cost on to them. Having a tenant who pays their rent on time and takes care of your property will easily repay the cost of the vetting service. Finally, look after your tenant and be a good landlord, and they are more likely to be a good tenant in return.
Betjeman Millennium Park, Wantage (published in Community Times in the Vale magazine, April 2008) Step away from the bustle of Wantage market place into the Betjeman Millennium Park and you could be forgiven for thinking you’ve found a little piece of paradise. Hundreds of people have enjoyed the tranquillity and peace of the park since it opened in 2000, and despite the best efforts of vandals the park is as beautiful today, if not more so, than it was when it first opened – anyone walking there this month will have delighted in seeing both snowdrops and daffodils in flower at the same time! So how did Wantage come by such a lovely amenity? Back in Victorian times up till the 1960s the land was an orchard owned by the Wheeler family, who were responsible for building much of the housing in Wantage. Bill Wheeler wished for the orchard to become a park after he’d gone, but on his death the land was sold to a property developer who chopped down many of the trees and applied for permission to build housing on the site. Local people, including the Letcombe Brook Amenity Society, were horrified at the thought of losing this valuable green space and, with the help of a local landscape designer, plans were drawn up for a park with winding paths and a circular performance area. The Society and the developer presented their plans at a public inquiry – the property developer was aided by a highflying barrister but amazingly his application was turned down and the park was approved in principle, though the inquiry inspector believed it would never come to pass. Local determination is a powerful thing though and despite the property developer demanding the full development value - £300,000 - for the land, the newly-formed Letcombe Brook (Wantage) Charitable Trust members pressed on and, with funding from the District Council and an anonymous local benefactor, bought the land and started work on what would later become the Betjeman Millennium Park. It’s a fantastic David and Goliath story, with David slaying the giant and securing the park for future generations! So why the Betjeman Millennium Park? Of course, John Betjeman is intrinsically linked with Wantage – he lived here between 1951 and 1972 and many of his poems are about Wantage and the surrounding area – so he was an obvious choice! His old home, The Mead, overlooks the park and he used to walk past the orchard on his way to church every week, picking up chip wrappers left behind by Saturday night revellers: he said that it was fine till he knelt to pray, when the smell of the chip fat would put him off his prayers! To honour Betjeman, sculptor Alec Peever was commissioned to create six installations that featured Betjeman’s work, and these form a poetry trail around the park. The lines of poetry were chosen to reflect their surroundings – and I bet not many people realise that the stones bearing lines from On Leaving Wantage, 1972 – “I like the way these old brick garden walls Unevenly run down to Letcombe Brook” – actually look over to the walls Betjeman describes, across the bridge over the brook! The park has been a community effort right from the early days of its development, with the assistance of funding from the District Council and Wantage JET. Thousands of hours have been volunteered by local people who initially flattened the land, felled trees, laid the paths, planted thousands of bulbs and shrubs and installed the huge Sarsen stones. The Trust continues to maintain the park with volunteers joining regular working parties to weed, plant and prune the gardens, and recent funding has paid for a number of improvements including a new wall along the leat, drainage work, bins and benches, and the fantastic smaller Sarsen stones that now surround the performance area. The park is regularly used during Wantage Summer Festival for art workshops, music and poetry readings, and this year it will be the venue for local children to experience river dipping and other nature studies. But it’s as a quiet space for relaxation, rest and perhaps a little meditation that it comes into its own. Betjeman would surely be proud to give his name to such a gem. For more information about the park, to find out about the Trust or to join in a working party contact Brian Chisholm, Chairman of the Trust on 01235 762161 or visit the park online at www.ctinthevale.co.uk/betjemanpark
Woods Hair Salon @ Carswell Golf & Country Club (published in CT IN The Vale magazine, April 2009) If you fancy a brand new image for Spring, make sure you visit Woods Hair Salon at Carswell Golf & Country Club in Faringdon. The unisex salon opened two years ago but expanded last summer to offer double the floor space and double the staff in order to give new and regular customers a fantastic experience.
The salon is beautifully decorated with natural wood, leather and sumptuous fabrics, and the glass frontage and large mirrors make it light and airy. As soon as you walk through the door youâ€™ll notice the friendly and inviting atmosphere.
The experienced stylists at Woods are all fully trained and knowledgeable about their work, and they will ensure you have a relaxing experience. They are stockists of a high quality range of Lâ€™Oreal Professionnel and GHD hair products, which they also use in the salon, and they offer other services including deep conditioning treatments and seated Reiki. They are also specialists in hair design for weddings and other special occasions.
Woods Hair Salon @ Carswell Golf & Country Club is easy to find, located on the A420 and just 5 mins drive from Faringdon. To find out more or book an appointment call 01367 870990