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WYE VALLEY LIFE

WYE VALLEY LIFE

...is your life

FOREST OF DEAN • HEREFORDSHIRE • POWYS • MONMOUTHSHIRE • SOUTH SHROPSHIRE

GINO D’ACAMPO

Herefordshire’s Ann & Bryan Wynne on

CHICKENS the perfect productive pet

Coming to Herefordshire Food Festival

Hereford’s

3 2009 CHOIRS FESTIVAL performer profiles and programme previews Pages & pages of

SOCIAL PICTURES Are you in this issue?

CHEPSTOW Makes the most of its markets

AUGUST 2009

Inside

GILLY & TONY SPARKS Wye Valley home

AUGUST 2009 ONLY £2.50


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Home life WVM

With its sweeping, gated driveway, beautifully tended formal front lawns and natural stone façade, Gilly and Tony Sparks’ home in Newland in the Forest of Dean looks as if it’s been nestled into its hillside for years.

Age versus

beauty Words by Sharon Chilcott Photographs by John Teale

In fact, it was still being built when Gilly first looked around it five years ago. She was struggling to find an old property that was sufficiently spacious to accommodate the furnishings she had collected for the family’s home in Reigate, the large wing of a Victorian mansion. “I had no intention of coming to look at this house, I don’t like new houses but when I saw the details I thought it looks really nice and it doesn’t look new,” said Gilly. “I drove past and thought it looked quite interesting and came in without an appointment and asked the builder M.K. Wildin and Sons if I could look.” So deceptive was the property, that she completely forgot it was being built rather that renovated: “I didn’t like the traditional open fireplace in the living room, I would have preferred one in Cotswold stone and before my brain was engaged, I asked Mike the builder, if the open fireplace was coming out!” Fireplace notwithstanding, the size and style of the six-bedroom house in its twoacre plot sealed her decision. Even so, although there has been plenty of room for her two growing boys, complete with drum kit and for her husband’s collection of clothes,

which she laughingly points out take up more wardrobe space than her own, she still had a challenge with some of her larger furniture. “My sofas were seven feet long and too big for the living room, but I found an upholsterer, near Pontypool and they said they could cut them down for me.” Gilly, who owns Mono ladies’ clothes shop in Church Street, Monmouth, clearly has an eye for beautiful fabrics and has discovered a supplier in Jersey, where she buys designer ranges at discounts of around 30%. Her sofas were reupholstered in a fabric from Osborne and Little and the curtains in the living room are a stunning Nina Campbell design. For the curtains in the drawing room she used a Zoffany fabric, carrying the theme through into the room by using matching wallpaper as a feature on two walls. Taking the idea from a TV home makeover programme, she has framed the wallpaper. “I didn’t want wallpaper on all the walls, I just wanted to take the bareness away,” she said. This room has also been panelled in a style reminiscent of her drawing room in Reigate. AUGUST 2009 WYEVALLEYMEDIA.CO.UK

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“Before my brain was engaged, I asked the builder if the open fireplace was coming out”

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Home life WVM

Gilly has also used fabric left over from the curtains in the drawing rooms to soften the appearance of a wide expanse of bare wall over the stairs in the gallery-style hallway. She has taken a large piece of plywood, covered it with wadding and stretched the material over it to make an effective and original feature, lit by a spotlight. “Unfortunately the spotlight stopped working within weeks, and I now need scaffolding to get up there to change the bulb,” she said. When Gilly and Tony’s offer for the property was accepted, the builder had already chosen the kitchen, but Gilly had the chance to visit the kitchen company and change anything she wanted. “I liked most of what he had chosen but I included a larder,” said Gilly. “I also stayed with the slate floor he had chosen from Mandarin Stone, because with two boys, a dog, a cat and a husband who forgets to take his shoes off when he comes in from the garden, it is very forgiving and very easy to clean.” Also all the bathroom suites came from Lydney Bathrooms. The garden, through which runs the boundary of the Wye Valley Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty, is clearly Tony’s domain, where the first thing he did on moving in was to create a vegetable patch. The back garden is cleverly terraced with old railway sleepers, providing an unusual and eye-catching feature. “When I came to look at the house the back garden was just a steep bank and I said to the builder that the house was fabulous but there was no way my husband would go for a garden like that. There were no flat bits for the boys to play, so we had to come up with a plan.” To overcome the need for more flat space for the boys to play, the couple have just bought some extra land at the back of the property, which runs the whole length of the garden. It already includes a tennis court and Gilly dreams of building a swimming pool and

a summerhouse there. Another interesting feature in the garden is an old well, which is said by locals to be haunted. “When we came to look at the house there was a tree growing out of it. Before the house was built, this was a field and someone who kept their horses here said the horses wouldn’t go near it.” Back inside the house, there is plenty of room for two growing boys; Josh and Oliver have their own downstairs TV room, next to their father’s office and the third floor attic bedroom with its en suite bathroom made a wonderful eyrie for them when they were younger. Now Josh has moved out into another bedroom which, within restraining decorative guidelines laid down by Gilly, he has turned into a shrine to his favourite football club, Chelsea. The house has four further bedrooms, one including a wallto-wall wardrobe that has been commandeered by Tony, much to Gilly’s amusement. She has not yet finished decorating; the master bedroom is on her list, but already it is a tranquil and pretty room. The temporary bed cover is a pretty tapestry that Gilly bought in St Tropez many years ago. At the end of the bed is a chaise longue, which she picked up at a bargain price in a junk shop in Abergavenny, which she intends to have recovered. Dainty decorative touches are everywhere in this house, including in the bathrooms, where Gilly has hidden the frosted glass windows, which she detests, with stiff voile blinds and to which she has added glass beads and trimmings. In such a large house there is also plenty of wall space for Gilly’s treasured pictures and paintings, none more so than a painting of a silk dress by local artist Mariette Voke, which Tony bought for Gilly as an anniversary present, long before she decided to open her dress shop.

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WVM

Property

decorative

Delicately

This month we have gathered together the crème of the crop in Georgian Properties. Strictly symmetrical yet delicately decorative; Georgian properties accommodate modern, spacious and neat living.

14, St Thomas Square, Monmouth £385,000 Wye Valley Properties.com 01989 770596 Situated on the edge of the town centre just moments away from the Old Monmouth Bridge where the local farmers market is held, number 14 is only a short walk to the main supermarkets and the shopping centre. The whole house exudes a cosy atmosphere and the bonus of a pretty garden and off street parking is a welcome addition. The small community atmosphere of Monmouth meshes with the modern conveniences of great shops and supermarkets, and the town has a vibrant feel which is just enough without being intrusive. This is the perfect home in which to enjoy rural town dwelling. A substantial property; number 14 has four bedrooms, three reception rooms, a dining room, a bathroom, a large attic and a cellar all in great design and well structured space. The house has an attractive frontage with a raised cast iron palisade fence and pretty sash windows.

Lambrook House, Woolaston, Lydney £620,000 Bairstow Eves Lydney 08453 031449 bairstoweves.co.uk This pretty stone detached Georgian property possesses a rustic feel but maintains its neat symmetrical façade. The property also includes an attached two bedroom annexe, and stands in gardens adjacent to far reaching farmland. There are many character features inside this four bedroomed home, 14

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including cast iron fireplaces, picture rails, exposed beams and wooden floors which add to the comfortable rural feel of the place. The kitchen in particular, with its wood panelling creates is a cosy centre to the home. The attached annexe is currently used as a holiday let and was a former Cider House. Wandering around the gardens which lie to the rear, side and front of the house is a delight, and time spent amongst the fruit trees and the ornamental waterfall and bridge is a real tonic.


Property WVM

The Lions Bank, Montgomery, Powys £650,000 Strutt and Parker Shrewsbury 01743 284200 struttandparker.com This imposing detached townhouse is located in the pretty market town of Montgomery and is surrounded by landscaped gardens. Lions Bank has wonderful character and dates back to 1775. A number of attractive period features remain including sash windows, oak boarded floors and a particularly stunning drawing room, ideal for entertaining in, which features beautiful 18th century decorative cornicing and plasterwork to the ceiling and an impressive fireplace.

Milford Hall, Newtown, Powys £695,000 McCartneys Newtown 01686 623123 mccartneys.co.uk Milford Hall is a fine Georgian country home sitting in three and a half acres of mature landscaped gardens. Situated to accommodate the best of both worlds, this home has delightful rural surroundings, yet is located just one mile from the centre of the nearby market town of Newtown. The property boasts an enchanting river walk, a potential pony paddock and an orchard and bluebell wood. As featured in “25 Beautiful Homes” magazine, the tastefully restored accommodation is classic and decadent in its fabrics and furnishings.

This seven bedroomed property is spacious, decadent and comfortable, and with the Welsh borders and surrounding countryside on the doorstep, there’s a wealth of local history and excellent sporting and recreational opportunities to be enjoyed. The majority of the wonderful garden is walled and is largely lawned with mature floral and herbaceous borders to both the front and the rear of the house. Within the cartilage of the property is a former coach house and stable which now partly provides garaging. This building has superb potential for a studio or auxiliary accommodation. The property comprises a hall, dining room, drawing room, study, sitting room, kitchen, cellar, utility room, games room, two bathrooms and a shower room. This large robust home would be ideal for a large family.

Original 18th century features are in abundance. From oak floor boards and window shutters to working marble fireplaces kitchen cabinets and plaster cornices; this is a home with history and character. The accommodation includes 7 bedrooms, a reception hall and a dining room, a library, a drawing room, a morning room, a kitchen and a butlers’ pantry. Annexed to the main house is ‘Milford Hall Cottage’ which is a one bedroom character cottage and currently used as a residential letting. AUGUST 2009 WYEVALLEYMEDIA.CO.UK

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Beach beauty WVM

By Allison Boyle

Beachwear confidence There is no better feeling, at this time of year, than packing your suitcase for a well-earned beach holiday. However, it can also be frustrating as many of us dread the way we look in our swimwear. Suddenly the realisation that all your New Year’s resolutions and attempts at giving up chocolate for Lent failed miserably and we hate how we look in our swimwear. So before blind panic sets in and we put ourselves on some crazy diet, let’s take a good look at our bodies and learn how to make the best of what we have. Try to understand and accept the shape you are and that you aren’t going to be able to change it in a short space of time. Focus on your assets and feel confident about showing them off whilst at the same time playing down the parts of your body you are not so happy with. When it comes to choosing swimwear, I believe it’s just as important to think about the pattern and design of the costume, as it is about the style. Think about your body shape, if you are curvy like most woman, stick to softer patterns, florals are great. If your bodylines are straighter, then geometric patterns are best. Try to keep patterns in proportion to your size, the smaller you are, the smaller the print should be.

Allison Boyle Style & Image Consultant 01432 761677 07818 808728

If you have a small bust and a boyish figure, make use of detail; frills or gathering will add volume and curves to the bust and hips. If you are top heavy, look for a style that runs straight across the bust with wide set straps that should help to minimise your bust. By wearing a plunging neckline would just draw attention to that area. For shorter ladies that want to give the impression of having

longer legs, look for something that has adjustable ruching at the hips. Accessories can be a great way to add interest to any outfit and they have the added benefit of drawing the eye away from your problem areas. For instance, if you aren’t so keen on your legs, a nice wacky hat and a floaty chiffon scarf will draw attention to your top half. If however you are blessed with good legs, some bold, beaded flip-flops or a short length sarong with fringe detail could be a fun way of showing them off and therefore averting attention to your top half. If like me you don’t feel comfortable walking around in just your swimsuit, you could always wear a kaftan. A short one is great for covering your bottom and upper thighs after a dip in the pool. Or you could try a knee length one which gives enough coverage to go and have lunch in; they also look great with floaty linen trousers or jeans for late evening wear once the sun has gone down. The sarong is another very useful accessory; they are great cover-ups for pre-swim and give you a lovely feminine look. Remember, if you only feel safe in a plain swimsuit; try to jazz it up with a floral beach bag and a pair of shades in a bold colour. When it comes to make up girls, never over do it - it will only start to run when it gets hot. All you need for a great fresh look is some waterproof mascara and a splash of lip-gloss. So go on, experiment this summer and enjoy your knew found confidence on the beach.

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WVM

Fashion

Fashion Focus

Summer heralds an influx of the young and hip onto our streets. Injecting some glamour and a taste of the city life, students re-gather to show us what they have learnt in terms of style from far and wide. This season there is a big emphasis on 80’s rock. Style icons such as Debbie Harry are proving to have a huge impact on how the twenty -something’s are dressing.The American singer and songwriter became famous as the vocalist for cult band ‘Blondie’ and just lately her unique brand of effortless, edgy and cool is witnessing a renaissance. Today, young designers such as Henry Holland and his muse and model Agyness Deyn have rejuvenated this rock appeal which is penetrating the streets of Hereford, as seen in our four examples spotted in the city.

Emma Jane Watkins 20 Musician I am inspired by the Olsen Twins, Daisy Lowe and Debbie Harry and by designers such as Henry Holland. I usually get my clothes locally, or from the high street, my mum also has a great stash of 80’s clothes.

Evey Parsons 23 Student I buy my clothes locally, a bit from everywhere, although my favourite label is Miss Sixty.

Victoria Smith 28 Administrator for MP Paul Keetch I love Debbie Harry, she is a real style icon for me, along with Kate Moss. I tend to buy my clothes from the high street along with accessorising from charity shops. If money wasn’t an issue I’d buy Vivienne Westwood.

Kerry Brown 21 Hairdresser Leggings and cardigans are my favourite items this season, you can dress them up or keep it casual.

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Fashion WVM

Fashion Anticlockwise from top Statement jewellery in natural materials are in this summer as delicate vintage decadence is put on the back burner until winter. This vegetable ivory necklace originates from Columbia and incorporates a natural pattern similar to animal print, but in fun dyed colours. This is just one in a million of treasures available at Ethos, each with a history and journey which separates it from the rest.

These cream patent slingback platforms by Unisa are perfectly versatile. Great quality from a great brand, this shape works with trousers and skirts and the alternative colours of fuschia and lime will complete your capsule wardrobe!

Head to The Dressing Room and check out the Spring/ Summer 2009 range from James Lakeland. Manufactured in Italy this popular brand boasts the finest fabrics and textures. James Lakeland tell us that this collection is all based around strong block colours mixed with neutrals, so team this statement top with a pair of pretty leggings or some simple linen trousers.

EnVee, Monmouth 01600 711557 envee.co.uk

The Dressing Room, Malvern 01684 567667

Ethos, Hereford 01432 890423 Ethostrading.co.uk

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WVM

Day tripping ‹‹ continued

Tucked away in some of the little premises of the town centre and surrounding area, are a whole host of owner operated businesses relying on their service and quality of products to bring you back to them time and time again. Remember to look beyond the High Street and explore the smaller lanes and mews for really individual items and companies keen to offer something out of the ordinary. Deacons Florist are renowned for their wonderful floral bouquets for weddings, birthdays or any special event, either delivered to your door or collected from their shop in Bank Street. Deacons provides a service across Monmouthshire from small gestures to extravagant displays for all occasions and owner Kay Lunn is now looking forward to supplying some of her own grown plants for use in the shop. To add 50

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to the celebration services they have a sister business, Wow Factor balloons, that adds a whole extra dimension to your party or special occasion.

example of how service and knowing your clients is a sure-fire way to longevity.

It makes perfect sense that a town with such a prestigious racecourse should accommodate a dedicated equestrian wear specialist. Ride & Stride is situated in St Arvans, between Tintern and Chepstow and is literally a one-stop horse and pony shop, from feeds to saddles, tack, accessories and clothing, headwear and footwear and much more.

County Marquees is another family run business, this time based just outside the town and also with offices in Bristol. They don’t just provide marquees, they help to create the perfect atmosphere for your special occasion, whether it’s a wedding, party or corporate event at home or to extend your chosen venue. They also supply festivals and country shows creating ideal function pavilions for larger affairs.

Manor Carpets is a family run business in St Mary’s Arcade that is celebrating its 23rd anniversary in September and has been supplying and fitting a vast range of carpets, vinyls, wood and laminate flooring to customers over the two decades. This trusted business is a great

Find out more about Chepstow and the businesses and events in the area by looking on the following useful websites: chepstow-walk-talks.co.uk chepstow.org.uk chepstowtowncrier.org.uk visitwyevalley.com


Deacon’s Florist Kay Lunn NDSF

Est 1986

Fitted carpets, wood, laminates and vinyl specialists

5 St Mary’s Arcade Chepstow, Monmouthshire 01291 621144

4 Bank St, Chepstow Tel. 01291 623768 www.deaconsflorist.co.uk

R ide & Stride

CHEPSTOW

Sale now on 50% off many items Situated between Tintern and Chepstow

(near Chepstow racecourse)

The Saddlery, St. Arvans, Chepstow, Monmouthshire NP16 6EJ

01291 627072

info@rideandstride.co.uk www.rideandstride.co.uk


WVM

Day tripping b

Photographs a-e Ali Williams Photography

c

Excellently

marketed

a

Words by Heidi Chamberlain Jones, Photographs Heidi Chamberlain Jones and Ali Williams Photography.

The original Saxon name of Chape (market)

Stowe (meeting) sums the town of Chepstow up perfectly. It denotes the beginning of the

picturesque Wye Valley route from the south

and juggles an enchanting history and plethora of tradition with modern day commuter living and architecture.

Chepstow is indeed a meeting point for a huge number of people. Significantly located on the River Wye, as it joins the Severn estuary, its position just off the M4 motorway links England and Wales and provides easy access to cities like Bristol, Cardiff, Birmingham and even London. No wonder many of its 14,000 residents are commuters, but the town also enjoys a loyal collective of local shop owners and business people who have been charmed by its setting or have returned to their family roots. You see Chepstow is a mish-mash of pastel fronted terraces, ancient archways, narrow streets and the prize of the atmospheric Norman castle ruins, said to have been built by William the Conqueror, and almost urban river. The water’s proximity to the estuary and its depth made it an 48

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industrious port where large ships were built and traffic went as far as Iceland and Turkey. At one point it handled more tonnage than Cardiff, Newport or Swansea. However this eventually died off and now the town is better known for its joie de vivre and passion for festivals and markets. The iron river bridge not only links the banks enabling vehicular access, but also provides a spectacular and dramatic platform for the festivities of the annual Two Rivers Folk Festival in July, and Mari Lwyd wassail in January. Featuring re-enactments of ancient customs between English and Welsh, and the seeing in and celebration of the seasons, both events attract huge numbers of Morris, Ceilidh and other colourful dancers. They take over the whole town with merriment, song and music to be unavoidably

embraced by all in the vicinity, see tworiversfolkfestival.com for details on both events. Chepstow also has its very own open-air art gallery, where art lovers can enjoy a very Parisian atmosphere when they are able to enjoy and purchase a huge array of paintings displayed on the railings of the town from various original artists. On view on several dates including at the Folk Festival, 1 August and 5 September, this is another example of how the town welcomes a national audience and trade. Learn more on artontherailings.org.uk Another bi-annual event is the Chepstow Festival, next due in 2010. This month long showcase of local and professional talent is again organised by committed local residents and is centrally based, including the castle as a venue.

Find details at chepstowfestival.co.uk The town is a great base for campers and visitors to explore the area and be self- sufficient with some light entertainment in the evenings. Dotted with a handful of great little restaurants including Greek, Italian, Chinese and various pub chain eateries, a smattering of traditional hotels offer hearty menus, or treat yourself to a takeaway. But if you are looking for real flavours of the area then the bi-monthly farmers, country and regular mini producers markets feature a comprehensive selection of what local makers have to offer, including preserves, breads, vegetables, cheeses, sweet treats, fish and succulent organic meats. Creative Cultivators, held three times a year, draws appreciators from across the board of produce, art and craft. Again centrally


d

e

based this collective will next be held on 28 November, along with the Christmas Lights switch on and a selection of stalls and musical entertainment culminating in the arrival of Father Christmas. The prevalence of so many markets perpetuates a long established tradition for the town and honours its heritage as a meeting place and trading centre. Chepstow Racecourse just outside the town hosts a famous clothing and housewares market and the combination of all of these collectives means that there is something going on nearly every weekend throughout the year. The famous racecourse offers national appeal to a tremendous cross section of visitors. Apart from its regular fixtures and popular themed events, its function suites often facilitate charity fund raisers, gala dinners and corporate occasions

Choosing the right marquee and interiors can make all the difference between a great occasion and a really memorable one. At County Marquees we don’t just provide marquees ... we help you to create the perfect atmosphere for your event.

for non-race goers as well as hardy followers. The course is particularly well known for hosting the Welsh National and is a real landmark to the town. And what of the essential need to satisfy our retail cravings? Well, Chepstow is not devoid of intriguing independents and is pretty well catered for in most areas. High street and individual fashion, jewellery, lingerie, footwear, country clothing and supplies sit happily with an excellent florist, beauticians and hairdressers, artists suppliers, gorgeous gift and interior accessory shops galore, soft furnishers and even a family owned department store. Read on to find out more about some of these . . . ››

Our next Marquee Viewing weekend is on 2nd - 4th October 2009 A unique opportunity to view our marquees and accessories. Please call to book your appointment

Offices in Cardiff, Bristol and Chepstow

01291 629377

www.countymarquees.co.uk


Gardening WVM

Timely Tips

for Gardeners

by Wincey Willis

August can be a strange month with contrasting weather conditions; long hot dry periods and then the chance of torrential downpours all add to a gardener’s workload.

Potatoes It’s harvest time. I find that unless I dig the same patch over two or three days there will always be some tubers left in the ground to sprout next year and hold onto any diseases. If blight has got to yours remove all the haulm and bin it. Don’t compost it; you want to get rid of the spores. Leave the potatoes in the ground for a couple of weeks. Wash them as you dig them out and allow them to dry on a rack in the sun. Hardened skins will help them store well. Only store undamaged ones in a vermin free cold dark place. Good old hessian sacks are favourite but paper ones will do. Hang the sacks up to avoid slug damage.

Watering Water is best done in the early morning or the evening. Water at ground level and hoe all around your plants, not only does this kill the weeds but breaking up the surface soil prevents the water being lost by evaporation as it’s drawn to the surface by capillary action. Mulching with organic matter after watering will help retain the moisture; several sheets of newspaper covered in bark chips do the job and keep out the weeds. Be aware that where there is moisture there are likely to be slugs. Creating a trench of cinders and wood ash around your vegetable plot can be an effective barrier. Turn your compost and add water if it is dry.

Tomatoes Remove side shoots and cut off the growing tips so all the plant’s energy is used in the fruit. Blossom end rot, when the tomato goes black on the base, is caused by lack of calcium. The plant can’t take up the calcium from the compost if it is dry. Water and feed regularly.

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Retail therapy WVM 1. Locally sourced beautifully bespoke hampers; from £12 per person The Mill Race, Walford 01989 562891 millrace.info

Picnic accessories

2. Carry and store your biscuits, cakes and tiffin safely with this totally top tiffin box £34.95 Worthington Woodpower, Ross-on-Wye 01989 564542 worthingtonwoodpower.co.uk 3. Perfect for picnicking plastic ‘Spork’ £1.99 Cooks Haven, Hereford 01432 356233 cookshaven.co.uk

1

4. Decadent and durable lead-free pewter salad servers £45. Crows Feet, Ross-on-Wye 01989 763698 crowsfeet.net 5. Exquisite Indian hand block printed throws, quilts, tablecloths, napkins, table mats and cushions. Prices range from the napkins at £4.95 to the extra large quilt at £125 Ethos,Tarrington 01432 890423 ethostrading.co.uk

2 3

4

5

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In the spirit WVM

Cognac How to get started

By William Hutchings Cognac Connoisseur From his cellar at The Bell, Skenfrith

How do like your brandy? My father used to drink brandy and soda before dinner, while my mother preferred brandy and ginger ale with lots of ice. I use the term brandy as interchangeable with Cognac, but Cognac is exclusively from a relatively small area centred on the town of Cognac. The town is close to the eastern Atlantic coast of France and stretches down to the Dordogne. I point this out not just as a geography lesson but also as one of the reasons for the wide variations in style and taste. Cognac is made from wine, deliberately made low in alcohol to retain maximum character. It is then twice distilled in 25hectolitre pot stills, with the alcohol vaporising at 78.3°C and the water at 100°C. This simple piece of chemistry makes one of the world’s finest drinks, when combined with a huge input from nature, man and maybe a little alchemy. Once transferred to wooden barrels, made from French oak, remarkable transformations take place. The raw colourless brandy starts to begin to take on the tannins, colour and flavour of the wood, and interacts with the outside through oxidation via the pores (remember the warm Atlantic air evaporating the raw spirit at a rate of 3 to 6% per year).

William Hutchings Cognac Connoisseur

So an entry level Cognac that is good for mixing (see my parents above) would be designated VS (very special) or 3 stars. This has been matured in the barrels for a minimum of 30 months. It will almost certainly have cane sugar added to mellow what is still quite a raw spirit, and caramel to ensure a consistent colour. Occasionally a boisé will be added. A boisé is oak shavings soaked in old brandy to accelerate the barrel ageing process. Perfect with a mixer as a long predinner drink, it is also great in the

kitchen. I am still a sucker for a flambé pancake, and it marinades game perfectly and of course no self-respecting Bisque would be seen without a generous slug from the bottle. The next level, which might be drunk as a digestif after dinner, is the VSOP (very special old pale), which has a minimum of four and a half years maturation. More complexity will have been imparted from the barrel/air interchange, and you might start detecting interesting aromas and flavours such as chocolate, dried fruits and vanilla. XO (extra old) needs to be matured for at least six and a half years, and most Cognac houses will age well beyond this up to 20 or 25 years. This is a truly special Cognac, which the cellar master has selected knowing that it is probable that he might well not even taste the finished article. This should not be mixed with anything and will be smooth enough to drink straight. Contrary to popular belief, these Cognacs should not be warmed over a candle. This just results in driving off some alcohol and a lot of the volatile aromas that have been so long in the making. Room temperature is perfect. The aromas and flavours will develop and change in the glass for your enjoyment, as you are slumped in your favourite armchair in front of a fire. Most good supermarkets have an extensive range of own label, as well as branded Cognacs. This is a great and relatively cheap place to start experimenting, and testing to see what styles you like. AUGUST 2009

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Finance WVL

Derek Keeble of St. James’s Place Partnership in Hereford gives advice about. . .

The continuing turmoil in the financial world has affected us all, and for investors there have been a whole array of challenges. For people with existing pension funds, or those contemplating retirement planning, two key issues dominate. On the one hand, volatile global stock markets have caused a slump in the value of many pension funds, which has hit those due to retire in the short to medium term.

Outliving savings and running out of money could become a harsh reality if there is a lack of proper retirement planning in making private arrangements.

may consider semi-retirement, maintaining some level of employment while you are happy to work. Making a calculation for your retirement fund is entirely personal, as is selecting the most appropriate investment vehicles for that fund, but these are not areas you should attempt without taking advice from a trusted and reliable wealth management professional.

Pensions look again at your options

And at the same time, retirement funds are coming under increasing pressure because the majority of us are living longer.

To receive a free guide covering Wealth Management, Retirement Planning or Inheritance Tax Planning, produced by St. James’s Place Wealth Management, contact Derek Keeble of the St. James’s Place Partnership at HMB Catley Staite Wealth Management, 46 Bridge Street, Hereford HR4 9DG. 01432 354 390 or email derek.keeble@sjpp.co.uk.

Increased longevity and changes in retirement lifestyles have piled pressure on pension funds. In 1981, a person’s pension was expected to last them 16 years but now that pot of money needs to last for 22 years. (Source: Government Actuary’s Department – January 2009. Assumes pension benefits commence at age 65.) With this and the recent slump in pension fund values, a re-focus on retirement planning is essential. The golden rule is to find out exactly how much you are going to need in retirement and start planning for it now.

Yet according to the Pensions Commission report “Pensions: Challenges and Choices”, 12 million people are at risk of out living savings by not saving enough for retirement, while around a third of all workers between the ages of 30 and 60 are not contributing to a pension at all. (Source: www.poverty.org.uk – January 2009) To plan properly you need to determine how large a pension fund will be needed to ensure that your retirement is a comfortable one. After taking into account what you will need to fund everyday life, you might want to look at areas of expenditure on leisure activities like holidays, travelling, hobbies and treats for the grandchildren. Or you

The same applies to those who have been building up a pension fund for many years and are worried about the ability of their fund to provide a sufficient income through their later years, particularly in these recently turbulent financial times. For those due to retire in the short to medium term, while there is little that can be done to recoup recent losses, an advisor can recommend a more cautious investment profile to help protect money from further losses. If retirement is imminent, the best strategy is to maximise the potential for income from the money that you actually do have.

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Food forum WVM

The Crown

at Woolhope

It was a quintessentially English summer’s evening when we tootled out to the Crown at Woolhope for our evening meal. With not a cloud on the horizon we entered the incredibly friendly atmosphere of the bar area and were welcomed by mine host, Matt Slocombe who was very quick to make us feel welcome.

Matt explained that he has been landlord for approximately two years now and has spent a lot of that time upgrading the bar and dining areas, giving all the public rooms a coat of paint and total de clutter. We totally approved of the décor as it reflects the fact that it has been retained as a good village pub and not purely as a restaurant which seems to be the case across the country. As evidence of this, there were a generous number of local people propping up the bar. Indeed, as we collected our menus, clutching our drinks, on the way to the garden tables we left behind a gathering of locals enjoying a huge round of laughter and joke telling. The gardens have been rigorously cleaned up and are now full of

blousy roses and herbaceous planting, a joy to sit amongst whilst reading the menu. The front of the pub has also been redecorated and shines out now as an example of a well tended hostelry. Hopefully I have set the scene for you, the reader, as this is a very local village pub and the rural surroundings are idyllic. Back to the menu – Matt was previously closely associated with The Scrumpy House at Much Marcle and many of the dishes on the menu are licensed to The Crown such as twice baked Hereford hop soufflé with a cream and mushroom sauce, also the ciders on the drinks menu are reminiscent of a bygone era.

We chose trout paté followed by a double cheeseburger, and toasted halloumi with roasted vegetables followed by a summer vegetable risotto. Neither of us are pudding people so unfortunately we did not experience the excellent selection of puddings. We had plenty of time to enjoy the weather, views and surroundings until we were called to our table.

My toasted halloumi with roasted vegetables was the perfect dish to start a summer evening meal and was very tasty and quite delicious. I followed with the sweet taste of a summer vegetable risotto which was perfect after the cheese. The trout paté was packed with flavour and thoroughly enjoyable. All quaffed with a glass of the house white.

Inside the pub, we were placed in the dining area which again is part of the busy bar area and we felt as though we were a part of the village banter. Our waitress was incredibly friendly and knew the menu well, which always helps when you are trying to decide which delicacy to enjoy.

The pub is host to many of the village activities such as darts team dinners, billiards team parties and also members of the tennis club just down the road call in for meetings and a welcome drink after their exertions. The Crown is without exception the centre of the village community.

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GLAMOROUS LADIES AT HEREFORD RACES

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Over 4000 people enjoyed the annual Ladies Day event at Hereford Racecourse this year. Glamorous gals still managed to look gorgeous despite a couple of rain showers and the competition for Best Dress and Hat resulted in two worthy winners. This year’s event included the introduction of a shopping village, an added attraction for ladies to spend their winnings on. 1. Erin Rose looked a real little lady with mum Kelly 2. Eleanor Price and Lorraine Hodgeson 3. Jennifer Benson and Mary Stone-Belben 4. The ladies lined up for the judging of best hat and dress 5. Gill Langford, Judy McFarlane, Tracey Haggett, Cheryl Richards, Diane Cox and Marina Matthews 6. Lynn Jones,Val Bentley, Helen Parrott, Denise Cockerton, Michelle Williams and Janet Lloyd 7. Sandra Thomas and Jackie Howell 8. Sue Hunt and Karen Ewins 9. Graham and Nicola Smith 10. Ali Fuller and Rachel Webber 11. Winners of best dress and best hat, Joyce Shaw and Louisa Tobin

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Photograph

courtesy of

ing.co.uk

digital-imag

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Wye Valley Life August 2009  

Selected features from Wye Valley life and Life in the Marches magazine, covering Herefirdshire and surrounding areas, from August 2009.

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