Countylife - December 2013 Berkshire news

PUBLISHED: 10:40 20 December 2013 | UPDATED: 10:40 20 December 2013

John Nike OBE DL, the Hon Mary Bayliss JP, the Rt Hon Michael Portillo, Brigadier Peter Walker OBE (Chairman, ABF The Soldiers’ Charity Berkshire Committee)

John Nike OBE DL, the Hon Mary Bayliss JP, the Rt Hon Michael Portillo, Brigadier Peter Walker OBE (Chairman, ABF The Soldiers’ Charity Berkshire Committee)


A round-up of fascinating stories from across our county

Portillo helps boosts army charity fund

Former Defence Secretary and television personality Michael Portillo regaled an audience at Denison Barracks, Hermitage, with stories from the poignant to the uproariously hilarious in aid of the Army’s national charity, ABF the Soldiers’ Charity.

A still chuckling audience enjoyed a reception and delicious lunch in the Officers’ Mess. Thanks to the generous sponsorship of John Nike OBE DL, the Greenham Common Trust and ESRI (UK) the sell-out event raised £14,000; a substantial contribution to the Berkshire Committee’s fundraising target this year of £120,000.

Michael Portillo said: “I am acutely aware of how much we owe those who have served their country in the Army. The Berkshire Committee raises serious amounts of money for veterans’ welfare. and, as I discovered on my visit, has fun too.”

The event was attended by Berkshire’s Lord Lieutenant, The Hon Mary Bayliss JP, who is County President of ABF The Soldiers’ Charity.

Pray that the boiler survives

Parishioners using St.Mary’s Church in Twyford will be wrapping up warm this winter and hoping the ancient boiler sees them safely through to spring.

“We have been told that our 30-year-old boiler is on the verge of expiring,” says the Rev Simon Howard, vicar of Ruscombe and Twyford with Hurst. “Apparently their normal life span is around 25 years. We hope to raise enough money to replace it next March, but it is touch and go whether it will see us through the winter.”

A campaign aims to raise the £50,000 needed for a new heating system. The hope is that individuals and businesses will join the congregation in making donations and organising fund-raising activities. Contact the church office on 0118 9344729 or email

Countryside on the page

If you love the local landscape, we highly recommend the latest book by our walks expert Steve Davison, who delights in steering you across Berkshire and Buckinghamshire in each issue.

His ‘The North Wessex Downs’ looks at the beautiful, rolling chalk downlands of West Berkshire. Discover fascinating human history marked by impressive monuments such as Uffington White Horse and the magical Wayland’s Smithy; picture-postcard villages hidden amongst the folded contours of the chalk countryside; and the geology of the open downs that offer breathtaking views stretching over rounded chalk hills, with red kites circling the wide skies above.

And if you’d like to meet Steve, he will be signing copies of his book at Hungerford Bookshop during the Hungerford Victorian Extravaganza between 6.30 and 7.30pm on Friday, 13 December. He won’t take you on a long walk this time! See

For information about the North Wessex Downs AONB visit

The surreal side of Berkshire

From an early age Reading artist Julian Gordon Mitchell was fascinated by the macabre, helped along by a love of Hammer horror films. As he grew up this began to play a major part in his art, particularly as he noted the peculiar interest the English take in the macabre – it seems most of us enjoy being a little frightened now and again!

So there could be no better way to celebrate the launch of his latest work, ‘The Betrothal’ than a Halloween event, complete with fancy dress, at The Assembly Rooms, Marlow.

‘The Betrothal’, a 6’ x 8’ oil on canvas work, took more than a year to complete at his studio in Oxford Road. Reading. It’s a complex composition based on ‘Paranoid Realism’, a label Julian uses to describe his approach to painting. It’s one of those works that unsettles you with its unnerving dream-like world, while at the same time luring the viewer back to discover new elements woven into the fantasy. It won’t let you depart easily, and the evening had plenty of other surprises in store after Marlow’s Mayor Suzanne Brown had opened proceedings.

Performances by actors Oliver Dench, Dominic Harrison and James Wilson; singers Sophie Jugé and Raya Sambidge took you to another world, with a recital from Marlowe’s Dr Faustus given by actor Peter Balderstone. Exhibition dancing was provided by Anna Monita and Lloyd Gerald.

Julian will be showing work at South Hill Park, Bracknell until 22 January – so if you enjoy mystery and allowing your imagination to run wild, make sure you visit.

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