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Best coffee in a rural location

Sam Bertram

5 October 2017

Sticks & Stones is a lovely relaxed rural café & lifestyle shop in Woodborough near Pewsey. Co-owner Garp Flack has always made the most beautiful wooden kitchenware so we spoke to his wife, co-owner Liis Flack, to find out what inspired them to open a café. What inspired you to transition from a shop selling Garp’s beautiful wares to opening a café? ‘Back in the day we had a studio and stock room at the back of Wiltshire Barn in Nursery Farm, Woodborough, which we used as a base to wholesale Garp’s kitchen accessories. We briefly had a shop in Marlborough, but when we got offered new premises at Nursery Farm, with a front on to the car park, we knew we wanted to focus on that space.   As with all rural businesses attracting customers is your number one priority. The new shop had a kitchen, if a little hidden, so we focused on uncovering everything, doing some refurbishments and opening up the space. It seemed a logical step to open a café alongside the shop. My mother is a chef in Estonia and Garp worked in the restaurant trade before leaving London. Although we said we’d never work in catering again, we kept coming back to it.  It’s obviously part of our DNA and we’re loving being involved in hospitality again. You’ve got a real loyal customer base, how have you achieved that? We started with the tiniest coffee machine and cakes from a local baker and we’ve gradually expanded our menu. We’ve got a great reputation for serving delicious coffee. Garp is pedantic about the quality of our coffee and regularly asks our staff to make him a coffee to ensure we’re keeping up the good standard. We’ve tried to make the café a little more interesting by buying local when we can but if not looking to the country of our births, Estonia and South Africa. We stock my aunt’s Estonian herbal teas and lovely leather handbags from Cape Town. We also have fabulous loyal staff. We incorporate food trends, the fact that people want to be healthy and serve what’s in season as much as possible. We serve a variety and our portion sizes are good while not being wasteful. One regular customer has a number of allergies, and we bend over backwards to make something he can eat. There is some Estonian influence – we love to cook chanterelles and wild mushrooms in season and serve smoked fish which we get from a local business. Some of our favourites are French Onion soup with croutons and gruyere and bagel with cream cheese and local salmon and avocado.  Many of our local customers work from home and come in to get out or meet clients. We have stay at home parents and we bribe dogs with treats so they drag their owners here! One local artist visits a few times a week, and just sits outside and relaxes. On a sunny day you could be anywhere in Europe. Come and see us – there are lots of other businesses to browse at Nursery Farm while you’re here.  http://www.uksticksandstones.com/     

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Mental Health Therapy

Sam Bertram

4 October 2017

Mental Health is a massive issue in the UK, with a recent study showing that almost 1 in 4 people in the UK say they have experienced a mental health issue in the last year. We spoke to Dance Movement Psychotherapist (DMP) Hannah Creighton of Gyidance about the influences that inspired her to help people with mental health issues and those who’ve experienced grievance and loss. DMP isn’t familiar to most, tell us a bit about it ‘Your body stores memories and dance and movement can help release these held emotions. Unlike traditional psychotherapy, where individuals are expected to talk, it’s an alternative approach to express oneself, accessesing places that words can’t reach. It’s extremely beneficial for those who need a way to channel held energies, such as those with mental illness or with disabilities like Autism. It is a creative process that meets the individual where they are at in their present moment. Music and props can support this and create a natural boundary between them and the therapist, using the best method to suit the individual.’ What inspired you to train as a Dance Movement Psychotherapist? ‘From the age of 6 months my mother put me into lots of clubs – starting with gymnastics and then moving on to ballet and trampolining. When I was 10 my mother passed away and everything suddenly stopped. It was only when I went to Secondary School, and they offered dance for GCSE, that I started again, eventually going on to University to do a BA in Dance and Theatre Arts. I love choreography and being creative. It’s almost like it was an unconscious acknowledgement to my mother who must have seen the potential in me. I’ve experienced some mental issues myself, and after University I went to Australia for some time out. It was there I got involved in a local festival and worked with a secondary school on a dance project, and decided to do a Masters degree in DMP. I’ve always liked to challenge myself and losing my mother at young age has made me want to live life to the full and push myself. I have a keen interest in working with mental health and having experienced loss, and suffered from poor mental health myself, I can combine my training with real empathy.   I started doing youth community dance projects and now frequently work with the elderly who’ve lost life, family and friends. I feel incredibly honoured to be part of their journey and hear about what’s happened in their lives. I also run Dance for Parkinson’s classes for people with Parkinsons, helping them with movements that can help them take a step forward. DMP has naturally found a place in these classes as it helps the participants realise what they still have to give. Mental health is the field I’m very passionate about and that’s what my dance project is about.’ Tell us about the Dance Project showing at Pound Arts on Saturday 7th October ‘Mental health is not straight forward and difficult to grasp. Life is incredibly fragmented when you live with a mental health issue.  The dance project looks at the fragmentation of us as human beings. Many people with mental health are riddled with fear and anxiety and they’re just trying to find a way to cope with what’s going on in life with them. A lot of people can’t put into words how they feel and what they’re experiencing. DMP is another way to express, release & communicate. The dance piece follows two dancers who are portraying the internal and external self, and the conflicts between them – the internal  is desperate to get out  but the external is not ready to face reality. The external may have become socially excluded or is avoiding day to day living but would rather ignore it as facing it is too overwhelming.  We’re doing the dance as part of the Peacock Arts Trail – we’re running a workshop on Saturday morning and then the dance early evening with Q & A.  We want to take it into schools to educate young people about mental health – showing them that there are other ways to manage your problems apart from talking. Come and see it on 7th October Pound Arts in Corsham – 4.00 to 4.30 and 6.45 to 7.15 http://gyidance.co.uk/  

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Nordic Walk & get ski fit

Sam Bertram

7 September 2017

The start of the school year signals change for not only the young but for everyone. September is the new ‘New Year’ when we re-access priorities and think about our work, life balance and wellbeing. We spoke to Ashley Sandy of Nordic Walking with Ashley to find out why Nordic Walking is becoming such a popular form of exercise. So, what’s so great about Nordic Walking? ‘The best part of Nordic Walking is that we exercise outside. We live in such a beautiful part of the county and there are such a variety of places to walk. One of my walkers, who recently moved to the area, said she hadn’t realised how beautiful this area is. Nordic walking helped her discover places she would never have found on her own. Even people who’ve lived here for ages are surprised by the new places we visit. People love the fact that it’s extremely social and that brings them back time after time. There aren’t that many exercises where you can socialise at the same time. I teach people how to Nordic Walk and, more often than not, people come back and walk with the groups rather than go off on their own. It’s so much fun and many of my walkers have made friendships for life with lots of great connections being made.  It’s great for both toning and cardio. We do different kinds of walks – some short and fast paced and others longer while keeping up a good pace to get the best workout.  Using poles utilises upper body muscles you wouldn’t normally use and help you keep a good posture. If you have injuries you can really benefit from walking with poles. Another lady in my group broke her back and Nordic Walking has really improved her fitness and movement in her lower back. If you have hip or knee issues poles help take the weight off them.  And finally, it’s great for all ages.  I’m looking at doing some more intense hour sessions to suit those who don’t have the time for something longer.’ Which are your favourite walks? ‘I absolutely love Avebury – I’ve got several walks in that area including ones to the Valley of the Stones and Fyfield Downs. Pewsey Vale is also fabulous – I love walking from Knapp Hill to Martinsell – the views are spectacular. Although views are incredibly rewarding I also love the walks in the forests of Savernake and West Woods. There are so many wonderful trees. Walking on the canal from Wilton to Great Bedwyn and up to The Brails is lovely and we always find a good spot for coffee!’ Tell us about the ski fit training you’re planning ‘So many of us never get ski fit, but you can really minimise the thigh burn if you do some preparation before your ski holiday. ‘Nordic Walking UK have a specific ski fit training programme so I’m planning some sessions. They will be an hour of outdoor circuit training - possibly a six-week programme in the run up to Christmas and one after Christmas. The training focuses on strength, balance and posture. We will use poles, bands and there will be some basic Nordic walking training. I’d love to hear from people on what times suit best.  I’m thinking of straight after school drop off – around 9.30 but open to suggestions - please get in touch if you’re interested.’ http://www.ashleysandy.com  

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Quintessentially English accessories

Sam Bertram

4 August 2017

Picture it – the breakfast table laid with stunning plates & cups with the smell of fresh coffee & bacon wafting through the air. A scene where Dragonfly & Blossom’s beautiful illustrated fine bone china and fabric home accessories would feel right at home. We talked to founder Sarah Holton from her home in Malmesbury to find out more about her gorgeous range of products for the home. Tell us briefly about the inspiration behind your range of home accessories ‘With a background in arts, graphic design and brand management I always wanted to make a quality product that’s not only made locally but the best it can be.  Originally from Gloucestershire, the countryside has always been a major part of my life. My illustrations are inspired by nature – whether it’s the insect range featuring bees, dragonflies, ladybirds or butterflies or the countryside collection including hares, stags, chickens & pheasants.  I wanted to create a distinct understated quality brand, with broad appeal, so all my illustrations are black on white.  I’ve always enjoyed pencil drawing which is perfect for my products. I started with fine bone china (mugs, teacups, bowls, plates, jugs & jam pots) but have since added candles, fabric accessories (lampshades, cushions & noticeboards) and more recently notebooks & box files.’ You mention some new products – tell us about those  ‘The most recent addition to my range is a bigger farmyard mug where I’m donating 10% of all product sales to Jamie’s Farm, a charity enabling disadvantaged young people to thrive academically, socially and emotionally. The mug is not only bigger than previous mugs, but is the first design to deviate from the black illustration on white. It’s on a grey background, features pigs, cows and geese, is fun and perfect for morning coffee! I’ve introduced the grey background to other products too. It’s on the new notebooks and box files which are hand finished, and on the aprons, tea towels, book bags and gift wrap. All our new products have been launched in the most popular design – the bee & hare. With the aprons and tea towels it’s not always practical to have a clean white design so the grey background offers a more user-friendly solution. We’ve also introduced a range of greeting cards & doorstops. There are new additions to our fine bone china range too with tea bag tidies and spoon rests. We launched them at the Cotswold Show recently and they went down a storm.’ What’s next for Dragonfly & Blossom ‘The exciting part is the brand is starting to get recognised and known. At the Cotswold Show so many people came in to give us some wonderful feedback on our products. I love shows as that’s when you get to meet your customers and see people’s reactions. We’re always looking to introduce new products & ideas. Our next stop is Christmas when we’re going to launch some gift collections. If you’ve got any ideas of what you’d like to see please let us know.’  http://www.dragonflyandblossom.co.uk

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