10 new things to try in Berkshire this year - 2015

PUBLISHED: 15:00 07 January 2015 | UPDATED: 15:10 07 January 2015

Gliding over the downs will definitely give you a lift

Gliding over the downs will definitely give you a lift

Archant

It’s the time of year for resolutions and we’ve discovered a few things in Berkshire you might never have tried before. The question is, can you attempt all 10 in a year?

1 - Up, up and away

What better way is there to see the county than from above? Float past Windsor Castle following the course of the Thames or marvel at the sight of Highclere Castle and the Berkshire Downs; while sipping a glass of something fizzy, of course. You can even help inflate and deflate the balloon. There are quite a few companies that can take you up. Virgin (hotairballoonflights.com) does a flight from £119 per person; Adventure Balloons (adventureballoons.co.uk) charges £105 and Altitude Balloons (altitudeballoons.co.uk) can take you up from Reading or Oxford for just £89.

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2 - Recipe for success

Learn how to create delicious dinners from a MasterChef. Annie Assheton, who appeared on the BBC cookery programme back in 2011, has opened her own cookery school in her kitchen in Pangbourne. Designed to cover a wide variety of cooking, from everyday family dishes to dinner party delights.

Annie can show you how to put together a ‘fast fish’ dish, giving tips on how to prepare it from scratch. Or perhaps you need help with some inspiration for midweek suppers. The demos last either three or five hours and cost £50 and £75 per person respectively. Take a look at Annie’s website at www.annieassheton.co.uk

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3 - Take to the open water

Here in Berkshire, we seem to like our open water swimming. Each year, in Henley, hundreds of people dive in to the Thames to take on any of the four traditional races. If you’re thinking of taking on the challenge yourself, or just want to get some exercise without having to hit the gym, you could always try it first at Bray Lake. There’s a swim centre here where you can sign up for some coaching for just £45. Or, if you think you will take to it like a duck to water, you can simply go along, pay £5 and jump straight in. There is a waiver form to sign, however. Find out all about it at www.braylakeopenwaterswimming.co.uk or call 07780994772.

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4 - Glide into 2015

Imagine being launched into the air by bungee then using the thermals to take you further up to reach around 30,000 feet. If that sounds like how you might like to spend a weekend afternoon then you can do your first trial flight in Shalbourne, with Shalbourne Gliding. Located on the top of the downs in an area of outstanding natural beauty, the gliding centre enjoys excellent soaring from the thermals and a north-facing ridge. A trial flight lasts 15 minutes and costs £35. If after those few minutes you’ve been bitten by the bug you can go back for further lessons, or even become a member. See shalbournegliding.co.uk

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5 - Raise a glass

Like a little learning? Then raise your glasses to wine school classes. The Vineyard at Stockcross runs regular sessions lasting an hour-and-a-half (£30 per person). Coming up, in February, they will be taste testing the wines of the Rhone Valley, and in March you can get to know our own English wines, all the way from Kent, to Cornwall. You can find out about the rest of the year’s courses online at www.the-vineyard.co.uk and you can book by calling 01635 897548.

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6 - Walk on the wild side

Located at Beenham, the UK Wolf Conservation Trust (UKWCT) is a must visit this year. You need to book if you want to go along any day other than a Wednesday (when it is open to the public). Entry is £8 for adults and £5 for children. If you want to do something extra special you could spend an entire day with the wolves. You will be able to get up close and watch the wolves investigate the countryside; you can photograph them as they interact with each other and even feed them alongside the experts. At the same time you will learn all about the support the UKWCT has given to worldwide wolf conservation in the last 20 years. You have to be over 18 and the day costs £175 per person, or £300 for two. Find out about what the Trust does and what you can expect at ukwct.org.uk.

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7 - Join the (green) gym

You don’t need a treadmill, rowing machine or cross trainer to keep fit. Burn off the Christmas indulgences out in the open - every Monday that’s exactly what many members of the Newbury and Thatcham Green Gym do. They all go out and help manage the heathlands at Burghclere, Newtown and Snelsmore Commons, they also maintain footpaths at Thatcham’s Nature Discovery Centre and do lots of planting and maintenance at local school gardens and parks. You don’t have to be fit to take part, just willing and available for two-and-a-half hours each Monday morning. If you want to join call Helena Barker on 07747183398 or visit www.econetreading.org.uk/greengym

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8 - On your marks

The number of marathons, half marathons, 10 and five-kilometre races organised each year in Berkshire is on the increase, with many of us deciding taking part is a good incentive to get in shape and raise money for a good cause at the same time. Here’s a brief run down of the ones you can sign up for this year. The Green Park Royal Berkshire 10k, mini marathon, mini mile and corporate challenge on Sunday, 17 May (www.royalberkshire10k.com); Windsor Half Marathon on 27 September (www.runwindsor.com); Running4Women Windsor 10k on 26 September (www.running4women.com); Newbury 10k on 24 May (www.bayer.co.uk); Wokingham Half Marathon on 8 February (www.wokinghamhalfmarathon.co.uk) and Bracknell’s Half Marathon is on 10 May (www.bracknell-forest.gov.uk/bracknellhalfmarathon).

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9 - Get back to basics

So you think you know your way around the kitchen? Have you ever tried butchery and sausage-making? Bastable Brothers Butchers run courses throughout the year (on Saturdays) from their shop in Kintbury. For £85 you can spend three hours learning how to break down a carcass, identify different cuts and joints and how to prepare them for cooking. Then you have the chance to discover the art of sausage-making, from preparing and mixing, through to tying them. The next few courses take place on 24 January, 21 February and 28 March. To book, call 01488 658537 or email info@bastablebrothers.co.uk

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10 - Save the hedgehogs!

Did you know that we have lost 50 per cent of our native hedgehogs in the last 10 years? If this carries on they become extinct by 2020. That’s a scary thought; so this year let’s turn it round for the Berkshire hedgehogs. One of the ways we can help is by fostering a hedgehog and volunteers at Hedgehog Bottom, a rescue centre in Thatcham, are always looking for foster parents.

You need to apply, of course, and make sure you have six months in which you can watch over your house guest, keeping him or her warm and feeding it when needed. If you don’t want to foster, you could always adopt. Find out about the centre and what we can do to preserve our hedgehogs at www.hedgehog-rescue.org.uk.

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