100 inspirational Berkshire and Buckinghamshire women

PUBLISHED: 10:15 18 May 2015 | UPDATED: 10:17 08 March 2018


So… we started with a plan to compile a list of 50 influential women from our counties. It soon grew to 100 and could have climbed well past 1,000. Indeed, if you bother to count you will discover we’ve ended up with more than 100, but what’s a few extra amongst us girls?

100 inspirational Berkshire and Buckinghamshire men



Queen Elizabeth II

There was just one easy part, and that was where to start. We can only begin with HM the Queen, our long-serving monarch, still riding in the grounds at Windsor (we hear) as she marks her 89th birthday on 21 April.

Catherine, Duchess of Cambridge

Born at Reading’s Royal Berkshire Hospital and a former pupil of St Andrew’s School near Pangbourne, she married second in line to the throne Prince William at Westminster Abbey on 29 April, 2011. Prince George arrived in July 2013 followed by Princess Charlotte in May 2015.

Sophie, Countess of Wessex

Sophie Rhys-Jones was born at Oxford’s Radcliffe Infirmary and married Prince Edward at Windsor Castle in the summer of 1999. They live at Bagshot Park and have two children. The Countess is a familiar figure at local events, particularly supporting charities and non-profit organisations connected to children, health and education.



Civic and Social Circles

Zoe Benyon

Zoe Benyon is a founding director of boutique jeweller Robinson Pelham, having trained as a gemmologist. The business came to worldwide prominence when the Duchess of Cambridge wore their diamond earrings on her wedding day. She’s also the wife of Richard Benyon, the Newbury MP seeking to hold his seat in the General Election. Zoe’s charitable efforts include cycling for Help the Heroes. In 2014 she was President of the Royal County of Berkshire Show.

Suzanne Brown

The Mayor of Marlow completed her term – and then signed up for another year. It was a busy period with the town at the centre of the winter flooding. She rallies support for numerous charities, this year it was Thames & Chiltern Air Ambulance and Marlow Opportunity Playgroup. Charitable endeavours have led to her being made a Freeman of the City of London.

Fiona Countess of Carnavon

The lady who can call Highclere her home has written several books. Two looked at the 5th Earl of Carnarvon, who discovered King Tutankhamun’s tomb with Howard Carter in 1922. She then turned to the Downton Abbey period with tales of the women who came to live there. Charitable events there are a particular forte. Also supported has been Launchpad, a charity helping vulnerable people in Reading.

Chanelle McCoy

No doubt pleased that her husband, record-breaking champion jockey AP McCoy, completed his last ride on 25 April, Chanelle will still find plenty to keep her busy. As the mother of his two children, it hasn’t always been easy when he has spent time in hospital for numerous injuries. For a start there’s Mojo & McCoy, the Hungerford boutique she runs with other notable mums. With a background in sales, R&D and senior management, she’s also director of a pharmaceutical business in Ireland.

Carole Middleton

The Duchess of Cambridge’s mother worked as a BA air hostess and once lived in a small flat in Slough. But in 1987 she founded Party Pieces, providing all the things you need to entertain children, and remains busy with this successful enterprise near the family home in Bucklebury. Single-minded and stylish, she’s a name many would want on their party list, but it’s clear that for Carole family comes first, with business close behind.

Samantha Rayner

Very much in the spotlight during 2012, the year of the Queen’s Diamond Jubilee and London Olympics, you might think this former mayoress of the Royal Boroug, would demand a rest. But in fact she’s remained busy, particularly on fundraising committees. Together with Horton farming husband Colin, the former mayor, she has teenage triplet daughters. The couple remain regular faces at events raising thousands of pounds for local charities. A qualified accountant, she also pulls her weight in the family business.




Fiona Devine

The founder of the Alexander Devine Children’s Hospice Service lost her son, eight, to a brain tumour in 2006. This year sees work start on Berkshire Children’s Hospice at Maidenhead; the charity already has a care team supporting more than 70 children with life-limiting and life-threatening conditions in their own homes. She’s pictured abseiling to raise funds.

Judith Diment

Judith, from Cookham, is Governor of the Rotary Thames Valley District and chairs Rotary International’s Polio Eradication Advocacy Task, raising significant funds for this vital cause. She also runs her own award-winning PR consultancy and project managed Slough Focus on Business from 1995-2000 and managed the Wycombe Business Excellence Awards. A scientist by training, she worked for 15 years at the Natural History Museum as Head of Public Relations.

Jane Gates

The CEO of Sebastian’s Action Trust, Jane and her family in Binfield set up the charity after losing their young son to a rare childhood cancer. Today it provides holidays at The Bluebells, a purpose-built home-from-home for families where a child has a life-threatening or life-limiting illnesses, and support for them through their journey. The charity has won a Pride of Britain Special Recognition award and is a recipient of a Queen’s Award for Voluntary Service. Jane was appointed an OBE in the 2015 Queen’s New Year’s honours list.

Katharine Horler

Katharine has been chief executive of Adviza for 12 years, the charity formerly known as Connexions Thames Valley. Previous experience has been in both Buckinghamshire’s and Berkshire’s Career Services. Adviza supports young people to achieve their full potential as they progress from learning to the world of work. For the past five years it has appeared in the Sunday Times 100 Best Not-for-Profit Companies to Work For.

Adrienne Jacobs

Involved with charities since she was 14, Adrienne has chaired Thames Valley Lady Taverners for the past seven years, overseeing a committee that has raised in excess of £125,000 for special needs schools and organisations, providing everything from mini-buses and multi-sports wheelchairs to sensory equipment. She lives in Reading and is a mainstay of the third-generation family business there, Jacobs the Jewellers, now run by eldest son Adam.

Debbie Raven

Former district nurse Debbie took over this year from Jacqueline Clark as CEO of Thames Hospice, having joined two years previously as Director of Patient and Family Services. Her proven dedication and experience in specialist palliative care has been instrumental in delivering the highest quality of care to patients, their families and carers.

Figen Rawlinson and Sue Farrington Smith

Figen, of Calvert Green, Aylesbury Vale, set up Taylan’s Project after losing her son, seven, to a brain tumour. Sue Farrington Smith, right, is Chief Executive of the Brain Tumour Trust at Padbury, Buckingham. She lost a seven-years-old niece to a tumour and is also a trustee of Ali’s Dream, launched after the tragedy. Both Taylan’s Project and Ali’s Dream are part of the Trust’s umbrella groups seeking to raise the profile of this cancer and fund research.




Cheryl Gillan

The Conservative representative for Chesham & Amersham was first elected an MP there in 1992. She served for two years in the Cabinet as Secretary of State for Wales, but left in September 2012. Recently she accepted a nomination from the Prime Minister to become one of the United Kingdom’s representatives at the Council of Europe.

Theresa May

Conservative MP for Maidenhead, Theresa served in her home constituency from 1997. But most know her as the current Home Secretary, and therefore the fourth woman to hold one of the UK Great Offices of State, after Margaret Thatcher, Margaret Beckett and Jacqui Smith. Some pundits tip her to follow Thatcher all the way to the top job.

Fiona Mactaggart

The Labour MP for Slough, has served the town from 1997. A former primary school teacher, she has spoken openly about her battle with multiple sclerosis, and is an ovarian cancer survivor. In March she was appointed to The Privy Council of the UK, so gaining the ‘Right Honourable’ title in parliament.

In the Lords

Angela Browning, born in Reading; Jill Pitkeathley of Caversham, a Cumberland Lodge trustee; Shreela Flather, former mayor of the Royal Borough, lives in Maidenhead; Emma Nicholson of Winterbourne, Berkshire; Rosalie Wilkins of Chesham Bois, Buckinghamshire




Laura Nicholson and Nikki Ross

Until last month Thames Valley had a woman Chief Constable, Sara Thornton, who is now the first chairwoman of the National Police Chiefs’ Council. Her replacement is Francis Habgood, who steps up from the deputy role. TVP has two women Assistant Chief Constables. Laura Nicholson leads the South East Counter Terrorism Unit (SECTU) and the South East Region Organised Crime Unit (SEROCU). Nikki Ross started at Thames Valley Police as a typist in 1984, and then control room operator before becoming an officer. She’s led the service in Milton Keynes and currently oversees the ICT and Information Management departments providing services across the Thames Valley and Hampshire, plus the Corporate Communications department.



The Law in Practice

Sue Andrews

Practice Group Leader Sue represents the women of BP Collins LLP of Gerrards Cross, where 69% of employees are female and their experienced female partners are certainly leading the way. Residential property specialist Jan Collis is the longest serving female partner, having been with the law firm for over 30 years. Other partners include Jo Davis, Diane Yarrow and Victoria Holland.

Amal Clooney

The place here is earned on the grounds that the Clooneys appear to be putting a huge effort into preparing their new home beside the Thames at Sonning for occupation; and that she attended Dr Challoner’s High School in Little Chalfont. The London-based barrister specialises in international law, criminal law, human rights, and extradition.

Emma Gibson

Emma heads up the corporate group in the Thames Valley office of Shoosmiths, who have offices in Reading and Milton Keynes, specialising in corporate finance. She won ‘Lawyer of the Year’ in the Thames Valley and Solent Deal awards in 2012 and 2013 and last year was listed in The Lawyer as a Hot 100 Lawyer.

Sarah Plumridge

Sarah is the Managing Partner at Aylesbury’s Parrott & Coales, having been a property solicitor for 20 years and a partner there since 2000. The law firm has a proud history of promoting women. In 1935 Miss Margaret Dickens joined as a secretary and trained and qualified to become one of the first female solicitors in the UK in 1949. She went on to become their first female Managing Partner in 1978.

Judith Rountree

The Young Lawyer of the Year 2013 at the LawNet awards has been promoted to associate at the Newbury, Thatcham and Maidenhead law firm Gardner Leader, which she joined in 2009. She has a track record for winning complex litigation cases, working will notable charity clients, and deals extensively with trusts and inheritance issues.



The Judges

Johannah Cutts

Judge Johannah Cutts took over at Reading from Judge Zoe Smith last year, having been Recorder at Amersham and sat at Aylesbury. She was appointed as a circuit judge in 2011. Prior to that, as a noted QC, she was the lead prosecutor in the case of the London cab driver convicted of serious sexual offences against young women in his cab, appearing in a subsequent ITV ‘Real Crime’ programme covering the case.

Kristina Montgomery

Kristina Montgomery was called to the bar in 1993, appointed a Recorder in 2008 and took Silk in 2013. Whilst in practice she became recognised as one of the leading advocates in matters involving children, vulnerable witnesses and defendants. As Her Honour Judge Montgomery QC she sits on the South Eastern Circuit, based at Aylesbury Crown Court, Amersham Law Courts and Oxford Combined Court Centre.



Local Authorities

Carole Mills

Chief Executive at Milton Keynes Council since July 2014, Carole’s focus is very much on the growth agenda, the development of the City and how the council will operate successfully for local people and business within a radically changed landscape. Milton Keynes has recently become a cooperative council and she is currently leading an internal change programme placing commercialism, commissioning and customer access at the heart of service design and delivery. Carole is active in several national networks including as an LGA Peer, within Solace and as an elected member of CIPFA’s Institute Council.

Ruth Bagley

Ruth became CEO of Slough Borough Council in 2007. Her career in local authorities began as an archivist for Gwent Council in Wales, and she moved up in her career to become CEO at South Hams Council in Devon. Particular interests include affordable housing, development planning and community safety. She was appointed an OBE in the Queen’s Birthday Honours list for services to local government.

Alison Alexander

Alison is the director of children’s services for the Royal Borough of Windsor & Maidenhead. She leads the effort there to achieve the highest educational standards, to keep children safe and to improve the life chances of children who live in care.

In some ways her background is as you might expect. She’s had a number of different jobs in other local authorities and before that was a director of a company providing careers and personal advice and guidance to young people. She worked for the Prince’s Trust and other charities before that.

What’s unusual is that Alison spent most of her teenage years in care and, perhaps, from that comes her drive, her passion and her authenticity.

Karen Satterford

Karen Satterford has been Chief Executive of Wycombe District Council for nine years. Wycombe is the fourth biggest district in the UK, serving 173,500 people,

with a turnover of around £100 million per year. She is responsible for services including a £0.5bn retail, leisure, housing, and town centre regeneration programme due to facilitate up to 6,000 new jobs.

Previously she was Chief Executive at a local authority adjacent to Heathrow, where she was closely involved in the development of Terminal 5. Karen lives in High Wycombe with her husband and two teenage children and enjoys theatre, cinema, contemporary dance and walking.

Christabel Shawcross

Christabel is the Interim Managing Director for the Royal Borough of Windsor & Maidenhead, her substantive post being Strategic Director of Adult & Community Services. It’s a broad portfolio and she oversees services ranging from Adult Social Care and Commissioning, Housing, Libraries, Arts, Culture, Leisure Services and Sport to Parks and Cemeteries.

Prior to this she was Assistant Director for Adult Social Services in Brent and Barnet and a policy adviser in the social services inspectors’ central policy team at the Department of Health seeing through new community care legislation, and developed the first abuse of vulnerable adults guidelines.




Rebecca Bunting

Prof Bunting took over as Vice Chancellor and Chief Executive Officer at Buckinghamshire New University from Prof Ruth Farwell CBE at the end of January. Previously she was Deputy Vice Chancellor at the University of Portsmouth, Dean of Education at Anglia Ruskin University and Pro-Rector at The University of Northampton. Her teaching career began in London comprehensive schools, later transferring to the University of Roehampton.

Rachel Dent

Rachel succeeded Barbara Stanley as Headmistress at The Abbey School, Reading, in September 2014, having been First Deputy Head. Her career started as an English teacher in Alexandria, Egypt, before joining Wisbech Grammar School. Rachel moved to The Abbey School in 2006 and also serves as a Governor of St Andrew’s School, Pangbourne.

Bev Flanagan

Bev’s career began in public relations but she moved into education and since mid-2012 has been Principal of Buckinghamshire University Technical College in Aylesbury. Prior to that she was Vice Principal at Wiltshire College and Assistant Principal at Basingstoke College of Technology.

Lady Keswick

Tessa Keswick is Chancellor of the University of Buckingham, where previous holders of the role include Baroness Thatcher. A noted writer on subjects including the European Union, the Constitution, law and order, education, health, tax and regulatory affairs and women’s issues, she was installed as Chancellor in March 2014.

Karen Mitchell

Karen, Principal and CEO of Aylesbury College, is a product of Further Education herself – she left school at 16 and, after a spell in Early Years education, worked as a nurse in trauma care for 20 years. She took over in September 2013, having joined the college in 1998 in a part-time role, moving up the ranks to Vice Principal of Learning and Quality in 2010.

Dr Anne Murdoch

Anne, from Tilehurst, has been Principal and CEO at Newbury College since 2001. In 2012 she was appointed an OBE for services to further education. Anne is also on the board of Thames Valley Berkshire Local Enterprise Partnership (LEP).

Claire Robinson

The headteacher at Holme Grange School in Wokingham took over at the start of 2009. She previously led a state school, St Thomas More, Kidlington. In 2005 she was honoured in the Teaching Awards, South of England, with The Promethean Award for Headteacher of the Year in a Primary School.

Rhiannon Wilkinson

Rhiannon became headmistress at Wycombe Abbey School in September 2013, following the retirement of Cynthia Hall. She has worked in both maintained and independent schools in England, Brunei and Hong Kong, joining Wycombe Abbey from Harrogate Ladies’ College, where she was Principal for four years.

Sue Woodman

Sue has been Vice-President of Reading University’s Council since mid-2013. She is a solicitor and General Counsel at Equistone Partners Europe Limited. A graduate in French from the University, she is a former Chairman of the British Private Equity and Venture Capital Association’s Legal and Technical Committee and its Executive Council.




Philippa Batting

The MD of Buckinghamshire Business First, the partnership between the county’s businesses and local authorities is an accountant who has lived, worked and brought up her family in Bucks. Previously she was head of finance, and then MD at Ngage, a not-for-profit organisation helping other not-for-profit and public sector organisations to achieve more.

Kate Bostock

Kate, who lives near Bourne End in Bucks, has been CEO of fashion retailer Coast for the past 18 months. The business has some 52 stand alone stores and 185 concessions in the UK and Ireland, and 147 international locations. Previous experience includes Next and on the board at M&S.

Joanna Chin

The co-founder, board director and chief operating officer of Windsor-based healthcare advertising agency Langland was a 2009 finalist in the NatWest Everywoman Awards, which celebrates inspirational female entrepreneurs in the UK. Jo also works actively as a role model for young women and girls, and was invited by the Everywoman organisation to be one of the hundred Founding Modern Muses.

Langland recently appointed Alison Ferrucci to the Langland Board and Kate Spencer to Managing Partner.

Susan Elliott

The vice chairman of Berkshire Institute of Directors is also MD and co-founder of Vital Six, based at the Science & Technology Centre, University of Reading. Vital Six helps businesses to fast track growth through working with management teams on finance and marketing, providing coaching to maximise results.

Petek Ergul

Petek became Vodafone UK’s Head of Mobile Network in February last year, and so is responsible for the rollout of their largest ever network and services investment plan. Originally from Turkey, she holds a BSc in Computer Systems Engineering, MSc in Broadband and Mobile Communication Networks and Executive MBA degrees. Her interests include travelling, art collecting, fashion, photography and wine tasting.

Barinder Hothi

The former Microsoft sales specialist changed course in 2008 when she was made redundant and her daughter fell ill with pneumonia. Together with husband Dilshad she set up The Knowledge Academy, now delivering training courses across the globe in IT, technical, personal development and project management, such as PRINCE2. It’s taken them from a small house in Slough to their dream home near Windsor. In 2014 they were the joint winners of the Emerging Entrepreneur of the Year category in the UK Private Business Awards (The Diamonds).

Kim Lloyd

Formerly a dental surgeon, Kim founded the Crendon Skin Clinic with business partner Julie Houghton. After meeting nutritional anthropologist Geoff Bond at a medical conference she was inspired to found Ugg Foods at Long Crendon, Buckinghamshire. This award-winning business provides a superb range of easy to prepare foods for those with a variety of allergies, including gluten-free.

Bonnie May

Bonnie runs Global Infusion Group, known as GIG, at Chesham with her partner, Tony Laurenson. A highly regarded backstage catering operation for the music, entertainment, film and TV industries and major events, GIG employs around 170 full-time staff worldwide supported by 3,000 freelance specialists. Last year it was the recipient of a prestigious Queen’s Business Award for Enterprise in International Trade.

Michele Oliver

February saw Michele take over as Vice President of Marketing at Mars, based in Slough. Formerly UK strategy director, she has said that life experiences have helped her build a successful career, including working part time when she raised her son. Her successor in the strategy role is another woman, Lucy Cotterell, who most recently served as Mars, Snickers and Twix marketing director.

Cindy Rose

The MD of Vodafone UK’s consumer division works from the company’s worldwide HQ at Newbury. She was appointed in 2013 having practiced law in the US before relocating here and qualifying as a UK solicitor in London. Joining The Walt Disney Company, Cindy worked her way up to Senior Vice President and MD of the Disney Interactive Media Group before moving to Virgin Media for four years prior to the role at Vodafone.

Women are definitely doing the business at Vodafone UK as among other notable achievers are Ferhan Gunen, Head of Service Operations, and Helen Lamprell, Corporate & External Affairs Director.

Caron Vetter

Caron is MD of The Belmore Beauty Centre in Stoke Mandeville and winner of the Thomas International Business Leader of the Year award at the Buckinghamshire Business 2014 Awards. A specialist medical and cosmetic tattooist, she now employs 18 staff, having originally been a beauty therapist at Champneys, and then a beauty therapy lecturer at Aylesbury College.

Joanna Wales

The head of operations and events at Ascot racecourse has a successful career track record in event planning, including running her own corporate agency, Launch Pad Events, for five years. She took on the new role in January, having previously been head of operations and ICT there.




Sabrina Chetcuti

A corporate healthcare professional and self employed business consultant with extensive experience in market strategy and business management, Sabrina is a governor on the board of South Central Ambulance Service.

She lives in Newbury and has also served as a Non Executive Director for Berkshire West Primary Care Trust (PCT).

Anne Eden

On 1 April Anne, until then chief executive of Buckinghamshire Healthcare NHS Trust at Amersham for eight years, became NHS Director of Delivery and Development for the South. In 2012 she became a visiting professor at Bucks New University. She volunteers for Medical Aid for Poland and the Relief Fund for Romania, providing advice on health service policy and development.

Hattie Llewellyn-Davies

Hattie took over as chairman of Bucks Healthcare NHS Trust, which runs Stoke Mandeville Hospital, in March last year. Prior to working in the NHS, she was employed in various chief executive and senior management roles in the housing and homelessness sector and was appointed an OBE for services to homeless people in 2004.

Jean O’Callaghan

A trained nurse, New Zealander Jean joined Royal Berkshire NHS Foundation Trust as Chief Executive in August last year. She was previously at Dorset County Hospital NHS Foundation Trust where it was facing both quality of care and financial challenges and in was in breach of licence. During her four years of leadership it returned to financial balance and good performance. Prior to that Jean led Bedford Hospital NHS Trust and held similar roles in New Zealand and Australia.

Janet Rutherford

Janet Rutherford lives in Hungerford and is acting chair of Royal Berkshire NHS Foundation Trust. A former Director of Social Services at the now defunct Berkshire County Council, she moved on to become Director of Policy and Research at the Local Government Association.

Before joining the trust, Janet was Vice Chair at NHS Berkshire and had previously served as a non-executive director with the Thames Valley Strategic Health Authority.

Sue Thomas

Sue has lived in Wokingham for 30 years and is a governor on the board of South Central Ambulance Service, having previously worked at Hewlett Packard. Her particular interest is as a supporter of Thames Valley and Chiltern Air Ambulance and Hampshire and Isle of Wight Air Ambulance, two charities working closely together.



Popular Culture and the Arts

Mary Berry

Mary lives with husband Paul at Penn but a busy schedule of filming, personal appearances and her writing career take her far and wide. The Great British Bake Off star has sold over five million cook books. She was appointed a CBE in the 2012 Birthday Honours.

Lucy Benjamin

Actress Lucy was born in Reading and attended Maidenhead’s Redroofs Theatre School. She is best known for her role as Lisa Fowler in EastEnders, the distressed lover who shot Phil Mitchell. Since then she’s appeared in numerous TV shows and on stage, including touring with Hairspray.

Fern Britton

A former Dr Challoner’s High School student, Fern lives in Buckinghamshire with husband celebrity chef Phil Vickery and their daughter. Her latest novel, A Seaside Affiar, has just been published. TV work includes Ready, Steady Cook, a 10-year stint as co-presenter of Good Morning and BBC2’s The Big Allotment Challenge.

Lucinda Dryzek

The High Wycombe-born actress went to Marlow’s Holy Trinity CofE School and then Wycombe High School, coming to prominence in the BBC series Life of Riley. She played the young Elizabeth Swann in Pirates of the Caribbean: The Curse of the Black Pearl, and is a familiar face on TV with parts in series such as Midsomer Murders as well as stage appearances.

Susan Cooper

Author Susan grew up in Burnham and attended Slough High School. She’s now based in America and best known for the contemporary fantasy series of children’s books, The Dark is Rising. A former Sunday Times reporter, her writing has won numerous awards.

Emma Crosby

The Channel 5 news anchor grew up in Newbury, was educated at Park House School and St. Bartholomew’s, and has happy memories of being a Saturday girl at M&S before graduating with a BA(hons) in drama, theatre, film and television at Leeds University. She’s worked for the BBC, CNN, as a presenter on GMTV, and Sky News.

Anne Diamond

Our columnist finds fascinating stories for listeners to BBC Berkshire’s mid-morning show but is also busy with TV appearances, regularly seen on Channel 5’s The Wright Stuff and as a pundit on other shows. She was already a familiar face through presenting TV morning shows, and co-founded a campaign which dramatically cut the incidence of cot death in the UK.

Rosemarie Ford

The dancer, actress and TV presenter lives in Denham with her husband actor Robert Lindsay. She co-hosted the very popular Generation Game with Bruce Forsyth, going on to host Come Dancing for the BBC. She played the role of Bombalurina in the 1998 film version of the Andrew Lloyd Webber musical, Cats.

Dani Harmer

The Bracknell actress has packed a lot into her 26 years, including appearing as Tracey Beaker in the popular CBBC series, winning the 2010 Children’s BAFTA for Best Drama, and taking fourth spot in Strictly Come Dancing. Her Dani Harmer Academy of Performing Arts operates from Crowthorne.

Tracey Ullman

Having grown up in Slough and attended Burnham Grammar School, Tracey has enjoyed an incredible career encompassing acting, as a comedian, singer, and dancer and latterly as a director, author, and screenwriter. Numerous TV comedy hits here led her to a career in the US where The Tracey Ullman Show won four Emmys. In March it was announced that she would return to the BBC for the first time in 30 years with a new six-part comedy series.

Tessa Dahl

Tessa grew up in Great Missenden, where parents Roald and Patricia made their home. She attended Downe House School in Cold Ash near Newbury (later alumni would include her daughter as well as Clare Balding and the Duchess of Cambridge). After an early acting career she has produced best-selling children’s books and has written for numerous newspapers and glossy magazines.

Tess Daly

Tess and husband TV presenter Vernon Kay live in Fulmer with their two daughters. The co-presenter of Strictly Come Dancing, she has also presented the BBC’s Children in Need and is a patron of Great Ormond Street Hospital. She has published two ‘chick lit’ novels and The Baby Diaries: Memories, Milestones and Misadventures, about her personal experiences of motherhood.

Emma Ferreira

Emma is a Brit artist making a big name for herself in the US. She was born in Wycombe and grew up in Beaconsfield. She is revered as Los Angeles’s leading young mixed media artist, with her work sold at international auction house Christie’s Beverly Hills. It is regularly shown in publications alongside that of iconic artists such as Andy Warhol and Marc Chagall. She champions child development charities at home and overseas.

Natalie Dormer

Actress Natalie was born in Reading and attended Chiltern Edge School at Sonning Common and Reading Blue Coat School. Her TV work has included as Anne Boleyn in The Tudors, and more recently as Margaery in Game of Thrones, while on the big screen there have been major parts in The Hunger Games and Patient Zero, due out next year.

Joanne Froggatt

Downton Abbey actress Joanne attended Maidenhead’s Redroofs Theatre School and today lives in Buckinghamshire with husband James Cannon. Previous TV roles include A Touch of Frost, Bad Girls, Dinnerladies and The Royle Family. She won the 2014 Golden Globe Award for Best Supporting Actress – Series, Miniseries or Television Film.

Beverley Glock

The celebrity chef from Princes Risborough is a food writer, author and broadcaster. She runs cookery clubs for adults of all abilities in her pretty former mill house home, using produce from the kitchen garden, and there are workshops across the Home Counties. For children there are Splat Cooking Parties, run by the team or DIY versions.

Tessa Harris

Our previous editor left to write a novel… and has enjoyed superb success ever since. After nearly 30 years in mainstream journalism she saw her first historical crime novel in the Dr Thomas Silkstone Mystery series, The Anatomist’s Apprentice, published in 2011. It won the RT Best First Mystery Award and so far four more books have followed.

Sue Holderness

The Windsor actress may be best known for her role as Marlene in Only Fools and Horses, but she’s been a very busy lady throughout a sparkling career in theatre, radio, film and television. She regularly appears in The Vagina Monologues and is a mainstay of Alan Ayckbourn plays. Sue has played two roles in the stage version of Calendar Girls.

Kate Humble

The TV presenter who specialises in wildlife and science is a former student of Reading’s Abbey School and grew up in Bray. She married TV producer Ludo Graham in Newbury and they’ve now moved via Chiswick to a Welsh village where she owns a farm. From 2009-2013 she was President of the Royal Society for the Protection of Birds.

Pauline Quirke

The actress lives in Penn and while perhaps best known for her role as Sharon in Birds of a Feather and stunning performance in The Sculptress, locally it’s her excellent Pauline Quirke Academy of Performing Arts which most strikes a chord. Recent TV appearances have seen her in Broadchurch and as a Loose Women guest panellist.

Jean Shrimpton

The Shrimp was a top 1960s model made famous as photographer David Bailey’s muse. Brought up on the family farm just outside High Wycombe, she attended St Bernard’s Convent School, first in Wycombe and then Slough. But Jean came to hate the fame, escaped, and for many years ran a hotel in Penzance with her family. This year it was converted into a holiday let property.

Cleo Laine

Dame Cleo and her late husband Sir John Dankworth founded Wavendon Allmusic Plan Ltd as a charity and today The Stables Theatre beside their Buckinghamshire home provides a venue for outstanding concerts. The renowned singer has performed at the world’s top venues and received numerous awards, from Grammys to Lifetime Achievement accolades at The British Jazz Awards and by the US recording industry. In 1997 she was made a Dame Commander of the British Empire.

Kate Winslet

The Reading born actress is yet another graduate of Maidenhead’s Redroofs Theatre School. Her career has brought numerous accolades, including an Academy Award, an Emmy Award, three Golden Globe Awards and a Grammy Award. The Oscar came for The Reader in 2008 and she’s excelled in many parts including the unforgettable Rose in Titanic. Kate lives in West Sussex with her husband and son. In 2012 she was appointed a CBE.

Leigh-Anne Pinnock

The former Pizza Hut waitress and head girl of Sir William Ramsey School, Hazlemere, has enjoyed soaring success as a member of Little Mix, the all-girl group formed four years ago for the X Factor, and which went on to win the series. By the end of last year Little Mix had sold over 7.5 million records worldwide.

Clare Nasir

The qualified meteorologist and TV presenter was born in Milton Keynes. She’s an ambassador for both The Prince’s Trust and the Healthy Air Campaign. In 2001 Claire was made weather producer and presenter responsible for all weather output and weather-related features on GMTV. She has hosted several series, including Great Escapes and Extreme Weather. Her first children’s book, Colin the Cloud, is set to be followed by others this year.

Lucy Worsley

The Chief Curator at Historic Royal Palaces and TV presenter says her earliest memory is going to playgroup near Reading University and picking blackberries in Whiteknights Park. Her father, Peter, is an Emeritus Professor of quaternary geology there. She attended both the Abbey School and St Bartholomew’s School, Newbury.

Camilla Luddington

A former Marist Senior School student born in Bracknell, Camilla now lives in Los Angeles. She starred as the future Duchess of Cambridge in the 20ll film, William & Kate, and then as a crime scene cleaner in horror movie The Pact 2. She has also played a faerie in vampire series True Blood and a doctor in Grey’s Anatomy.

Suzanna Leigh

Actress Suzanna grew up in Caversham and remembers an exciting childhood as her father was co-owner of an English Derby winner. Her first film for Hollywood was Boeing Boeing with Tony Curtis and Jerry Lewis, and she was the love interest of Elvis Presley in Paradise, Hawaiian Style. Today she’s a successful actor/director in the US.




Katherine Grainger and Anna Watkins

The 2012 London Olympics saw the pair take gold in the double sculls, having broken the Olympic record in their semi-final. Katherine and Anna had linked up two years previously, won the World Championships and been named as World Rowing Female Crew of the year.

Katherine, from Maidenhead via Glasgow, is Britain’s most successful women rower, having won World Championship medals in all available Olympic boat classes. She’s now Dr Katherine Grainger CBE, having been made Chancellor of Oxford Brookes in March, and a Commander of the order of the British Empire. She also has an Honorary Doctorate from Bucks New University. Katherine is now training for the Rio Olympics

Anna became Champion of the Thames in the annual championships, the Wingfield Sculls, and the next year set a new record time in winning the event. She is married to Oliver Watkins, had a son, William, in 2013, and is studying for a PhD in mathematics at the University of Reading. A Patron for the Women’s Sport Trust, Anna was appointed an MBE in the 2013 New Year Honours for services to rowing.

Pamela Relph

Leander Club member Pamela is a reigning Paralympic and World Champion in the LTA mixed coxed four. She comes from Aylesbury and now lives in Caversham. Pamela was on an army scholarship at the Defence Sixth Form College, Welbeck, with a view to joining the Royal Engineers. When this career path was cut short due to disability, she turned to para rowing. In 2011, Pamela’s first international season, she raced at the first World Cup in Munich, where the crew took gold, and then went on to Paralympic success. She was awarded an MBE in the 2013 New Year Honours list.

Naomi Riches

Marlow’s Naomi Riches attended the Royal National Institute for the Blind (RNIB) College in Worcester and later graduated from Buckinghamshire New University with a BA in metalwork and jewellery design. She’s collected gold at World Cups, World Champinships and the 2012 Paralympic Games in the LTA mixed coxed four with crewmates Pamela Relph, James Roe, David Smith, and cox Lily van den Broecke.

Claire Taylor

Claire was born in Amersham and represented England more than 150 times until retirement in 2011. The first woman to named as a Wisden Cricketer of the Year, she attended Dolphin School in Hurst and Kendrick School, Reading, taking up cricket at the age of 13.

A sports all-rounder, she played for the England U17 and U19 hockey teams, before playing women’s county cricket for Thames Valley, notching up century after century, something that was to become a hallmark of her career. And there was another ‘string to her bow’, as a violinist she was accepted by Reading Orchestra and worked out of the University of Reading as a performance management consultant.

In 2009, the year of the Wisden accolade, she won the ICC Women’s Cricketer of the Year award and was appointed an MBE in the next New Years Honours.

Cathy Gannon

Cathy is Britain’s most successful female flat jockey behind Hayley Turner and returned to racing in March after a long lay off while recovering from a shoulder joint injury incurred in a fall.

Gee Bradburne (nee Armytage) at Lambourn is arguably one of the most successful female jockeys until Nina Carbury and Katie Walsh started their winning ways. Gee rode a double at the Cheltenham Festival in 1987, becoming the first lady rider to beat professional jockeys at the meeting and was joint top jockey. She is married to jockey Mark Bradburne and worked as personal assistant to champion jump jockey Tony McCoy.

Lady Carolyn Warren

Carolyn works with the Highclere Stud and Thoroughbred Racing teams preparing their yearlings for the October Tattersalls Sale, managing the stud with her husband John Warren, who oversees the Queen’s racing interests as her Bloodstock and Racing advisor.

Sophie Christiansen

The Sunningdale-born dressage expert has won numerous medals at Paralympic Games, including five individual or team golds. A former Charters School student, she was born prematurely with cerebral palsy and other complications. But none of this has stopped Sophie from becoming a champion in a career which grew from physio as a child with Riding for the Disabled. She was appointed an MBE in 2009 and made an Officer of the Order of the British Empire (OBE) in the 2013 New Year Honours.

Amber Hill

Bracknell’s Amber Hill is an Olympic Skeet Shooter for Great Britain and the current Ladies UK champion. In 2013 she was named BBC Young Sports Personality of the Year, the year she set a new world record by winning the Senior World Cup at just 15 years old. Now firmly in her sights is competing at the Rio Olympics next year.

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