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What’s been happening in December?

With the build-up to Christmas, December gets a bit truncated on the writing front, and a combination of interviews and impending deadlines made for a busy few weeks before the crackers could finally be pulled and the silly hats worn.

Early in the month, my favourite ‘Egg Man’ Stephen Turner once again invited me into his ‘world’. Although our planned Skype call had to be replaced at the last minute by a chat on the mobile, thanks to ‘technical’ issues with the Egg’s solar power system i.e. it had packed-up, nevertheless Stephen provided another evocative insight into life on the Beaulieu Estuary. His adaptation to the seasonal changes happening around him are an intrinsic part of the daily experience, the minutiae  of which can also be enjoyed by viewing the regular Exbury Egg blog posts.

Two men very much in the thick of things during the festive season were Steve Jacob and Ben Errey, aka Petersfield Festivals. Having masterminded another successful Christmas event their thoughts have now turned to a brand new Beer & Cider Festival which they plan to bring to the town in February. Talking to these young entrepreneurs you have to admire their enthusiasm and get-up-and-go attitude. And researching deeper into the local real ale scene for Hampshire Life it doesn’t take long to see that from established microbrewers like Triple fff to new start-ups like Alfred’s Brewery the glass is definitely half full. I also discovered the exciting news that the county’s first micropub, The Butcher’s Hook is set to open in Southampton this year. Cheers to everyone for making such a positive contribution to the local landscape.

Another launch that’s already happened is the new Vantage Point community magazine. Best wishes to Stefan, Marcus and the whole team for a successful 2014. My first article for this title appears in the February issue and writing -up the piece about local rose grower Seale Nurseries (there’s a St.Valentine’s link there somewhere) brought back instant memories of warm summer days.

And as the first shoots of spring tentatively break cover, ahead of the inevitable frosts, a family foraging piece for the spring issue of Baby Hampshire (plus Surrey and London editions) also gave cause to look forward to the New Year with relish. Although having spoken to some of the hardy experts, I now realise that to take full advantage of nature’s larder, you need to be prepared for whatever the weather throws at you. Me, I think I’ll wait for the rain to stop first before I break cover.

What’s been happening in September?

Who’d have thought it? We got the Indian summer that’s on our annual wish list. One man who’s really appreciated the warm weather is Hampshire’s very own Beaulieu Beadle aka artist Stephen  Turner holed-up in the Exbury Egg and its environs for another 9 months. Skyping Stephen for the first time it was great to share in some of his ‘experiences’, including watching moths swimming and making his first pot of Exbury conserve from hedgerow pickings. I’m looking forward to the next instalment in a couple of months from now, meanwhile the live web cam and Stephen’s blog are well worth tuning into.

Also enjoying some mellow fruitfullness is the team at Dorking’s Community Orchard. My piece on their first harvest made the front page story of The Surrey Hills Magazine.

Staying on the theme of reviving a bygone era, this year’s Heritage Open Days were a great chance to discover some of the hidden gems in our neighbourhoods. The revitalisation of The Farnham Pottery was a revelation, with both established artists and beginners taking advantage of the courses and facilities on offer. My paltry attempt at fashioning a clay house number won’t win any awards But I enjoyed making it.

Taking a heritage walk with a Godalming Town Guide gave even the locals something to talk about. Who’d have thought this sleepy Surrey conurbation harboured so many hostelries on the once busy London to Portsmouth stagecoach route? Or, that it could have genuinely been called an industrial town in former times?

Having enjoyed a couple of events at last year’s Guildford Book Festival the dust covers are off for 2013’s celebration of all things literary. Judging by the ticket sales so far, I can see I’m going to have to get my skates on if I want to bag some front row seats for the likes of Jennifer Saunders, Matt Dawson, Joanna Trollope et al. Thanks be that sun bathing is no longer a distraction from more meritable pursuits.

What’s been happening in July?

I can confidently say that exploring caves is unlikely to ever appear on my bucket list. So it was with slight trepidation that I signed up to a tour of the newly restored Crystal Grotto at Painshill Park, earlier this month.The lure of seeing one of Europe’s finest examples of 18th c. landscaping indulgence, however proved irresistible and boy, was I glad I did. It’s a marvel! With 100s of 1000s of shimmering stalactites placed painstakingly by hand, any thoughts of confined spaces were quickly banished. And judging by the oohs and aahs of my fellow pilgrims, I was not the only one totally entranced.

History was also highlighted on beating a trail to Guildford Museum. Researching the last of four features for Round & About magazine, thanks go to exhibitions and audience development officer Lynn Szygenda, who enthusiastically revealed the borough’s treasures. Although,  discovering  archaeological finds from Wanborough’s Romano-Celtic temple rubbing shoulders Lewis Carroll’s nursery toys, perhaps, shouldn’t be a complete surprise. As previous inventories of Haslemere, Farnham and Godalming Museums proved, expect the unexpected when entering the portals of Surrey’s local heritage hubs.

Talk of grottoes, I guess, should have got me in the mood for a snow story. But funnily enough, attempting to write about taking children sledging whilst struggling to bring my office temperature to below 30 degrees, has been somewhat taxing. So keeping tabs on Stephen Turner’s window on the world from the Exbury Egg, his (now fully hatched) studio, is a refreshing antidote. Tune in to Egg Cam for live streaming from the Beaulieu Estuary.

Another artist riding the crest of the wave, is sculptor Amy Goodman. Since I first came across her Quarley studio last year, she’s produced an incredible body of work: from prancing Pegasus statues for a Nottingham shopping mall to a winged angel for a Hampshire university. And now announced as the chosen artist for a major WW1 commemorative centrepiece, Amy’s life-size bronze war horse and rider will surely forge her standing as a major talent to watch.

Completing this round-up of my patch, the incomparable Goodwood Estate in West Sussex deserves a mention. A first encounter with the Festival of Speed, was breath-taking and I can vouch for the fact that you don’t need to be a petrol-head to have a great day out. This weekend it’s the thundering hooves of Glorious Goodwood and with the nostalgia of the Revival revving  up in September, it looks like summer’s all sewn up.

What’s been happening in May?

There was excitement at the beginning of the month with the publication of two new features. For fans of Downton Abbey – in fact anyone who wonders what some of our local landmark buildings look like on the inside, is a piece I wrote on Surrey’s Byfleet Manor. Home of the lovely Julie Hutton, the Manor is rented out to film crews for location shoots and stars as the Dower House. Read the article at The Guildford Magazine.

This was closely followed by another of my ‘Top Tens’ for the Baby Surrey/Hampshire/London series. Everyone enjoys a visit to the park and whether you live in the town or the country there are some hidden gems. In fact, a reader has already sent in a letter of congrats to the editor on discovering a park near to her house, that she didn’t know existed. It’s nice to be of service! Thanks must go to the Forestry Commission Alice Holt for supplying some great pics. Read the article at Baby Surrey.

Getting out and about this month I squeezed in a press launch and a private view in one day. First off was a trip down to the New Forest to see the inaugural launch of the Exbury Egg. Once in position on the Beaulieu Estuary it’s going to become the workspace of artist Stephen Turner for the next 12 months. Seeing the beautifully crafted, environmentally friendly Egg up close was pretty impressive. I wouldn’t mind spending a few months responding to the local environment myself – especially as it comes equipped with a hammock and solar shower!

Next stop:  final year degree shows at the University of the Creative Arts Farnham. Anyone who thinks students spend their time in bed or the pub should take a look at the fantastic work on display. I sat through part of the showreel from the animation course and was blown away – they certainly give Nick Park a run for his money. Textiles and glass were also stunning, it’s enough to make you want to enrol immediately.

I can’t sign-off this month without giving a shout-out to the crew at The Fish Society who I’ve had the pleasure of working with, on copywriting and SEO, since the beginning of the year. We’re about the embark on an exciting new PR campaign. Watch this space!

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