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Summer sizzlers

Okay so it’s not original but this headline seems appropriate for what (in the most part) has been a British summer to remember thanks to the mercury rising and some fascinating interviews.

Prepared to do their job whatever the weather are the pilots at RAF Odiham and a recent sortie to the UK nerve-centre of the Chinook helicopter squadrons was just awe-inspiring. Regaled with tales of front line duty in Afghanistan and emergency flood operations closer to home, the highlight was to actually step foot inside the cockpit of one of these aviation monsters and thanks must go to everyone for being so welcoming. To get the full story, my feature on the base has just been published in September’s issue of Hampshire Life.

A repeat visit to the charming New Forest village of Lyndhurst proved no less interesting as I sought to uncover some of its lesser known attractions for the day or weekend visitor. Despite being beleaguered by traffic congestion, it’s still a relatively easy place to walk around and definitely worth a stop-off before heading deeper into the wonderful countryside that’s on the doorstep. Great to see, was how much pride the Lyndhurst shops and businesses are taking in keeping it local, be it food and drink, or arts and crafts. Hampshire Life carries this spotlight feature in October’s issue.

And while the raw ingredient can never be sourced on our doorstep, one product that always delivers a smile is chocolate. The newly re-opened Royal Chocolate Kitchen at Hampton Court Palace is both a lesson in Georgian decadence and cookery. Small but perfectly formed, the rooms on display are attracting considerable interest, especially as there are regular chocolate making demos. My tour was made all the more entertaining thanks to the Royal Historic Palaces’ resident food historian Marc Meltonville and curator Polly Putnam who provided the low-down for this Surrey Life feature (out in October’s issue) – and yes, I enjoyed trying to decipher the saucy William and Mary period graffiti too!  

What’s been happening in August?

To tweet or not to tweet, that’s been my dilemma for the past few months. While I’ve dipped a toe in by following the daily musings of everyone from @melindagates to @eddieizzard, the merit of broadcasting personal sound bites has, until now, left me #ambivalent. But looking at how many journalists now regularly use Twitter as an integral part of their communications with the wider world convinced me to commit to do a crash course and gen up on the etiquette. And who’d have thought it? Three hours later and I’m a convert. @vivmicklefield may be a twewbe with only a few dozen followers but we’ve all got to start somewhere.

If August is a traditionally slow news month then it’s an ideal month for a bit of R & R – research and reflection.

A visit to Hartnett Holder & Co at the New Forest’s Lime Wood hotel resulted in the chance to meet head chef Luke Holder and a follow-up tour of the onsite smoke house.  It’s a mysterious world where slow food rules, but judging by the results (eagerly sampled) well worth the wait. And the restaurant’s certainly riding high having recently scooped the top spot at the 2013 Hampshire Life Food& Drink Awards and many congrats to Luke for winning chef of the year.

Another ‘one to watch’ is the creative zeal behind the SPUD initiative. Mark Drury took time out from a hectic round of project management and fundraising to tell me more about the ethos of Space Placemaking and Urban Design. The previously mentioned Exbury Egg (July blog) is the latest in a string of design-led projects that have inspired communities across Hampshire and it sounds as if there’s more in the pipeline to look forward to. Watch this space!

Almost in my own back yard, last weekend’s Amazing Thailand Festival perfectly summed-up a summer that has seen deadlines competing with the joys of glorious sunshine. Yes you can enjoy work and play – what a lovely day!

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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A community website for the residents of Parwich, Alsop-en-le-Dale, Ballidon and Pikehall in the Derbyshire Peak District.

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