Amazing Alvaston Hall

Amazing Alvaston Hall

Thinking of booking a break at a Warner Leisure hotel? Sally Evans tells us why Alvaston Hall Hotel, Nantwich, offers excellent value for money.

I was looking for a short break that mum and I would both enjoy, the criteria being a nice setting, a spacious room for us to share, good food, a pool for me as I’m a keen swimmer and some evening entertainment on site would absolutely seal the deal. A break at Alvaston Hall appeared to offer everything on our wish list and more, and so we opted for a three-night stay earlier this month.

As you approach the hotel through the lush grounds with mature trees and beautiful gardens, the striking Grade II listed half-timbered country house comes into view. The reception area is located in the oldest and grandest part of the original Victorian farm house, we were afforded a warm welcome and quickly checked in. We stayed in a Signature room in the Fairways which was immaculately clean, the bathroom had a huge walk-in shower and we had French windows opening onto a little patio overlooking the golf course. The room was spacious and airy, the beds were comfy and we had tea and coffee making facilities with tasty biscuits, replenished daily.

If you enjoy good food, you’ll be in foodie heaven here – breakfast and dinner ware served in the Grove Restaurant, which doubles as the cabaret hall, guests are allocated a table for their stay. The food is excellent and there’s so much to choice, guests can order from the menu or help themselves to the extensive buffet which offers dishes for every taste. For breakfast, there’s everything from cereals and pastries as well as a plethora of fresh fruit, yogurt, cold meat and cheese. The buffet offers a full English, smoked mackerel, Eggs Benedict and more, or you can request an omelette of your choice. With tea, freshly ground coffee and toast brought to your table, it’s a great way to start your day.

The dinner menu changes daily and offers a large selection of starters and salads, Asian dishes, traditional English dishes, such as pie and mash, fish and chips and carveries with a generous choice of meat, vegetarian and gluten-free options. A favourite dish was the succulent lamb roast, a special from the menu, which was cooked to perfection and absolutely delicious! Desserts are scrumptious and there’s a well-stocked cheese board on offer for the more savoury palate.  To top it off, there’s a good reasonably-priced wine list and there are several bars offering beverages, hot and cold, within the hotel. We were spoilt for choice on more than one occasion, in fact we remarked more than once that the dishes we tried were equal to, if not better, than we’d experienced in five-star hotels – our compliments to the hardworking chefs! .

After dinner, we were impressed by the evening entertainment and by the in-house entertainment team, the Blackjacks and the Allstars. Their enthusiasm was contagious, every night they put on a vibrant show with great singing and dancing, we took to the dance floor with other guests and thoroughly enjoyed ourselves. We also enjoyed watching a tribute act to Status Quo, and we were soon Rockin’ all Over the World with the best of them…

What’s on offer? Indoor activities include dance classes as well as line dancing sessions. There’s also speed painting, crafts, bingo and a variety of fun, interactive quizzes. Water babies will appreciate the heated swimming pool, the aqua aerobic sessions and the jacuzzi and sauna area in which to relax. Spa treatments are also available, you can book in advance or during your stay. Outdoor pursuits including archery, croquet and golf – the nine-hole golf course is a real bonus and costs only £5 pp. We went along to Dicey Horse Racing, we didn’t know what to expect but within minutes we were so glad we’d made the effort because it was hilarious! Hosted by Stephen (who’s a really good sport), and his team, they had us in stitches with their goofy antics, terrible accents, corny jokes and relentless banter.  We actually won a few pounds too –  it was a real tonic and we’d definitely recommend it!

I admit that I had a preconception that Warner Holidays catered only for the over 70’s, but I can honestly say that I couldn’t have been more wrong. Yes, there are a lot of mature guests, of retirement age and above, but they are also fit and active – looking for a fun-filled holiday where there’s something for everyone to enjoy. The hotel is large and was full to capacity but we never felt that we had to queue for long and there the pleasant members of staff we encountered were always more than happy to help and offer advice.

For those wishing to get out and about but don’t feel like driving, day trips by coach are available to the historic towns of Chester and Shrewsbury, costing around £20 per person.

With 14 hotels and holiday villages scattered across the UK, adult-only three or four night breaks offer guests great food, entertainment and hospitality in a safe and relaxing environment. Three night break start at £268.99 per person and a star break weekend with singer, Rebecca Ferguson, start from £289pp.

To book or check out last minute deals for Candis Club Members please visit www.warnerleisurehotels.co.uk/phc and quote PHCCANDIS or freephone 0333 202 0304

 


Welcome to Johannesburg

Welcome to Johannesburg

It’s 25 years since apartheid ended in South Africa and the last ten years have seen a cultural awakening in the city of Johannesburg.MEGAN WALSH explores the once-dangerous no-go destination to discover a welcoming metropolis before heading out on safari…

When people think of visiting South Africa, it’s no surprise that Cape Town is high on most people’s list of places to see. For so long, Johannesburg has been considered dangerous following years of unrest and decline. But the last few years have seen a change in fortunes and the largest city in South Africa – though not the capital – is now seeing a huge rise in popularity. The shores may be balmy in the country’s south but this buzzing city has so much to offer explorers.

The neighbourhood of Maboneng is South Africa’s answer to New York’s Brooklyn or London’s Shoreditch. This trendy area is considered to be one of the most successful urban-renewal projects in the world. Meaning ‘place of light’ in the South African language of Sesotho, this once-derelict area is now a bustling mix of fashionable boutiques, coffee shops, art galleries and restaurants, drawing in Johannesburg’s most talented creatives and enticing tourists from all over the world.

Market on Main, a huge emporium of food stalls and crafts, which offers everything from traditional African ceramics, vintage clothing and artisan creations, takes over Maboneng’s Arts on Main complex on Sundays and the first Thursday evening of the month. But whether it is market day or not, there is much to see and do in this promising new space.

Up, up and away

On the outskirts of sprawling Johannesburg, if you’re prepared to get up early, you can experience the stillness of the African savannah at sunrise in one of Bill Harrop’s hot air balloons. You’ll arrive before dawn to enjoy a preflight snack of freshly baked muffins and steaming hot coffee in the Pavilion, before heading out on an hour-long balloon ride above the majestic Magalies River Valley. Once back on terra firma, you’ll be treated to a delicious breakfast including Champagne. Prices start from R1,940 (£107) per person. A minibus from Johannesburg takes 1 hour, 15 minutes and costs extra.

A day in Soweto

If you’ve come to South Africa looking for something a little more than sun and safari, allow some time to visit the township of Soweto. An acronym for ‘South Western Townships’, Soweto was developed as a place where black people were forced to live under white rule and has played a huge part in South Africa’s turbulent and compelling history.

As the largest black urban settlement in Africa, Soweto became the centre of political campaigning in the fight against the apartheid state. To get the most out of your township visit, a bicycle or tuk-tuk tour is a must (sowetobackpackers.com). A home-grown initiative which strives to create jobs for people of the community, these carefully curated tours take you through the streets of Soweto. During the tour, you’ll visit the former home of Nelson Mandela on the famous Vilakazi Street and stop by the Hector Pieterson Museum, a memorial centre named after the 12-year-old boy who was shot dead during the uprising of 1976 – an event that changed the course of South Africa’s history and in which 176 people were killed by white police. Prices start from R570 (£32) per person for a two-hour tour.

Game for adventure?

After spending a couple of days sampling the city life, it’s usual to head out on an African safari when in this part of the world. For years, safari-goers have opted for north-eastern destinations such as Kruger National Park, but South Africa’s North West province offers plenty of equally amazing game- spotting opportunities.
A short three-hour drive from Johannesburg, Pilanesberg Game Reserve is home to Africa’s famous Big Five – lion, leopard, rhino, elephant and Cape buffalo – among many other wildlife species roaming free in their natural habitats. The park itself is situated in the middle of a huge volcanic basin, one of the largest of its type in the world.

The park’s proximity to Johannesburg means you do have the option of visiting for just one day, but if you want to up your chances of spotting all members of the Big Five, as well as other animals such as zebras giraffes and antelope, we’d recommend a four-day stay.

The most popular way to see the nature reserve is on a classic game drive. You’ll hop into an open-sided four-by-four, binoculars in hand, and spend a few hours cruising around the park in the hope of spotting one of the majestic animals which roam the plains. Don’t be put off by the openness of the vehicle – the animals can’t see you. They see only the outline of the jeep and think it’s merely another coexisting species in the reserve.

Once you set off, your eyes are glued to the horizon, scanning for any movements that might mean a lion cub, leopard or deer is moving carefully across the terrain. The knowledgeable guides look for clues in the dirt – a paw print or some freshly broken bark – to steer the vehicle on to the same route as the wildlife. When another guide in another spot radioes in with an animal sighting, the excitement intensifies. At this point, your driver makes a U-turn, following the directions coming from the walkie-talkie, and you’re off at a tearing pace in order not to miss anything. You scan the savannah relentlessly until the jeep slows down and suddenly, through the tall grass, an elephant emerges. The sight is truly awe-inspiring. The huge scale of the animal in the wild, effortlessly devouring tree branches with its twirling trunk, and unthreatened by your presence, is humbling. Then, just when you think your luck couldn’t get any better, out scramble two little ones, desperately trying to catch up to their elder. With them follow three more adults and here you are, less than ten metres away from a family of elephants who are blissfully oblivious to your fascinated eyes.

African safaris offer the ultimate in chance encounters. You might strike it lucky and see every member of the Big Five, with a few giraffes and zebras to boot, or you might see nothing more than a few cheeky warthogs and a timid impala.Expect to see nothing and treat each animal sighting as a bonus to a fabulous trip.

Walking with wildlife

If you’re reasonably fit and feeling brave, sign up for a walking safari. Photographers will relish the opportunity to take close-up shots of an unfazed herd of zebras that for a brief moment allow you to walk among them as they seek out greener pastures. You’ll learn an immense amount from the Pilanesberg Game Reserve rangers. Their passion for the land, and the animals that inhabit it, is truly remarkable. They carry rifles as a precaution with your safety as paramount so you can relax and take in the view. Coming across lion, elephant and leopard tracks is fascinating and glimpsing rare white rhinos through the vegetation is a real possibility. You may spot the remains of a kill, or if you’re very lucky, a lion hunt in progress with the flight of a deer as it tries to outrun the pride. Whatever you see, though, will stay with you for ever.

Where to stay

The luxurious four-star BAKUBUNG BUSH LODGE is located inside the grounds of the Pilanesberg Game Reserve, bringing the Big Five right to your doorstep. Sit back and relax in the comfort of your hotel room with all its amenities as you watch elephants, zebras, giraffes and more roaming past your window to drink from the nearby watering hole. There’s an outdoor pool and an award- winning spa on-site, and some truly delicious food to enjoy.

At the Marula Restaurant, ingredients of the highest quality make up a huge buffet of local and international cuisine for breakfast, lunch and dinner, while Wednesdays and Saturdays offer you the chance to dine under the stars at the Bush Boma. Here you’ll enjoy a traditional braai – a South African barbecue – and as you tuck in to your feast, you’ll be treated to a show of traditional South African entertainment. Enjoy it with a glass of the finest South African wine and you’ve ticked all the boxes for a perfect evening. Hayes & Jarvis offers bespoke trips including seven-night packages to Johannesburg. A sample itinerary of three nights at the Garden Court in Sandton City, then four nights at the Bakubung Bush Lodge in Pilanesberg on a full-board basis with car hire starts from £1,758 per person including return flights from London Heathrow to OR Tambo International Airport with South African Airways. hayesandjarvis.co.uk, legacyhotels.co.za

Factfile

GETTING THERE:

Fly direct to OR Tambo International Airport from Heathrow with South African Airways.

CURRENCY:

South African Rand (ZAR)

TIME DIFFERENCE:

GMT +2

CLIMATE: The climate in Johannesburg is subtropical. Winters are mild and sunny by day with cold nights. Summers are warm and sunny, with some afternoon thunderstorms. Winter days average around 20°C (68°F), while summer temperatures soar to up to 30°C (86°F).

HEALTHCARE:

Pilanesberg Game Reserve is a malaria-free zone, so no anti-malaria medication is needed.

GETTING AROUND:

Transfers and shuttle buses are widely available from hotels to the main city attractions and for onward travel to national parks and airports.

VISA: Not required for stays under 90 days.

TO FIND OUT MORE:

Visit southafrica.net


Tried and tested – chilled coffee

Tried and tested – chilled coffee

With cartons, cans and bottles of cow’s milk, oat and soy and cold presses, lattes and Americanos, the coffee market outside of coffee shops is incredibly diverse. We go in search of the perfect cold caffeine shot that can be enjoyed when you’re on the go. See below for how we fared.

Best flavoured

Starbucks Caramel Macchiato, 220ml, 150 calories, caffeine content 47mg per 100ml, £1.70, Morrisons and most supermarkets

With a shot of classic Starbucks espresso, this gave a rich, creamy coffee hit toned down by the sweet caramel flavour. Similar to the in-store version, it was liked best by those with a sweet tooth. Most expensive of the products we tested – but cheaper than in-store.

Best latte

Shaken Udder Ooh La Latte, 330ml, 200 calories, caffeine content not given, £1.35, Morrisons, Boots

Although it is described as a milkshake in a bottle, this was lovely, tasty and creamy, with a good coffee hit. It was not too sweet, either, and testers felt that it provided a true latte taste – giving it the thumbs up for being milky, refreshing and satisfying. We felt it was great value for a large drink.

Best skinny

Emmi Caffè Latte, 230ml, 87 calories, caffeine content 80mg per cup, £1.50, Morrisons, Tesco, Iceland

Made with responsibly sourced Brazilian arabica beans, this had a light consistency and good coffee flavour offering a refreshing drink. Lactose-free, it comes with a lid similar to those from take-out coffee shops which you pop back on once you’ve removed the foil seal. Great if you’re keeping an eye on the calories but don’t want to give up a fancy coffee.

Best non-dairy

Alpro Caffè Brazilian Coffee & Almond Blend, 235ml, vegan, 82 calories, caffeine content 20mg per 100ml, £1.70, Sainsbury’s, Morrisons, Boots

Dairy-, gluten- and peanut-free, this uses almonds to get that milky flavour and less sugar than other milk substitutes. We found it to have a subtle but moreish coffee taste and most testers couldn’t tell it did not contain milk. A blend of flavours, a pleasing dark colour with just a nutty hint coming through

Best overall

Jimmy’s Iced Coffee Flat White Extra Shot, 250ml, 100 calories, caffeine content 57mg per 100ml, £1, Whole Foods and supermarkets

Jimmy’s specialises in cold coffees and uses excellent-quality arabica coffee. The taste is the most authentic we tried and was appreciated by real coffee fans. Sweetened with a touch of demerara sugar, this was consistently rated as a favourite.

Best mocha

Arctic Iced Mocha, 330ml, 183 calories, caffeine content 39mg per 100ml, £1, Tesco

A good-value and very tasty mocha for those who like a dose of chocolate with their coffee, this range comes in an easy-to-handle, and recyclable, carton. It was dense in flavour with distinctive coffee and chocolate notes. Made with arabica beans, Fairtrade cocoa and Devonshire milk, it has a little screw top so no need for a straw.


Tried and tested – money holders

Tried and tested – money holders

Whether you carry only cards these days, prefer to pay via your mobile phone, or stick to transactions in cash, we tested a variety of money holders on the market. From the slimline to the multifunctional, there will be one to suit you below

Best phone case

Vintage leather wallet, £26.95, snakehive.co.uk

Well crafted, robust and available in a variety of colours, this is an exceptionally well-
designed phone protector and wallet combination. Made from leather, it has three card
slots, a pocket for notes and the magnetic clasp is strong enough to keep everything safe in pockets and bags alike. There is a version for Apple, Samsung, Google and Android phones. It is durable with extended use and can be cleaned easily with a soft cloth. It comes in a smart box so ideal for a gift. We loved it.

Best handmade

Amazon Handmade Personalised Origami Leather Wallet with Coin Purse, £60, amazon.co.uk

This origami-style leather wallet is handmade to order in the UK using Best100 per cent British leather. One side has a pocket with interior card slots and a secure coin purse with brass popper, the other has three card slots and a compartment for notes. It is a little bulky when filled, and doesn’t have a means to secure it, but we found all contents stayed in place. It can be personalised with initials for a great gift.

Best-looking

Dragonfly Oilcloth Zipped Wallet Purse, £24, sophieallport.com

Made of oilcloth, this wallet purse is both waterproof and wipe-clean need to worry when your water bottle empties itself inside your bag! It has six credit card slots, two spaces for notes and a zipped coin section. The outer zip fastening makes it feel particularly secure. Its pretty design – intricate dragonflies on a midnight-blue background – means it looks stylish too.

Best radio frequency ID blocking

Leather Credit Card Wallet with Zipper and RFID Blocking, £16.99, amazon.co.uk

An accordion-style wallet in a selection of colours is slimline, compact and fits up to ten cards. It has two slots for cash, though we did find it was more suited to folded notes rather than coins, which occasionally fell into the main section of the wallet. It’s less slimline when filled, but fits comfortably into a jeans pocket or small handbag. The RFID blocking technology helps to prevent ‘electronic pickpocketing’.

Best for kids

Smiggle character wallet, £8.50, smiggle.co.uk

Help your children to keep their pocket money safe with this compact trifold wallet. With two card slots, a transparent ID slot, coin compartment with card slots, a zipped notes compartment and Velcro fastening, there is a place for everything. It comes in a selection of trendy designs too. It can help to teach young spenders money  management as they buy things for themselves when they’re out and about with you!

 

 


Tried and tested – photo printing

Tried and tested – photo printing

Even in this digital age, nothing beats the look and feel of a real photograph – it becomes a tangible memory for us to keep. With many different ways to print photographs – from portable printers to apps and shops – there really is no excuse not to do so.

Best same-day

Max Spielmann, maxphoto.co.uk

For pics in a hurry, Max Spielmann’s one-hour service is ideal. Available in-store, or order online and pick up at your local Max Spielmann, some of which are located in Tesco and Asda stores. When placing the order online simply upload your pics, choose your size and edit accordingly. Editing options are simple and limited to cropping and choosing landscape or portrait. For one-hour service, choose Click & Collect; home delivery is available for the seven-day service. Prices range from 55p for 1-25 6in x 4in prints to £7 for each 12in x 8in photo. Once ordered, you’ll receive a confirmation email, followed by another when the prints are ready – ours were within 40 minutes. The pictures are available only in gloss but the quality is good.

Best quality

Cewe Photoworld, cewe-photoworld.com

If you’ve had professional pics taken or you’re a dab hand with the camera and want to print your favourites, this website is worth exploring. It offers a wide variety of printing options including the Fine Art Matte Photo Prints, which start at £4.99. Printed on the best-quality thick paper – matt with a textured finish – the colours and detail are replicated beautifully. You can choose to create online or by downloading software. When creating online, it’s just a case of uploading your pics and editing accordingly. You do need to create an account to complete the order, though it takes only a few minutes and keeps you updated via email of the status of progress. Our prints took just under a week to arrive and were worth the wait.

Best value

Asda Photo, asda-photo.co.uk

This service is great value and extremely easy to use – prints start at 5p for 6in x 4in. To use, create an account and upload photos via a simple system that adds them to your account. Once you’ve uploaded, the programme will indicate the best size according to the quality of your picture. If it deems the resolution is not high enough for a certain size, then a warning symbol will appear next to that option – this is to stop your photos from appearing fuzzy when printed so do take its advice. Editing can be fun to experiment with by cropping or altering the image to sepia or black and white, and selecting a gloss or matt finish. Place your order and wait up to seven days for your pics. Ours took just two days and we were extremely happy with the service, quality and price.

Best DIY

Kodak Photo Printer Dock PD-450, £119.99, amazon.co.uk

If you want the convenience of printing your photos and are happy with the standard 6in x 4in size, then the Kodak Photo Printer is ideal. It’s incredibly easy to set up – after you load the cartridge, which holds all the colour, you snap the loaded paper tray into place. The printer’s compact design makes it seem portable, but it doesn’t have a battery so needs to be plugged in. To print pictures from your phone, download Kodak’s Printer Dock app, which lets you browse your phone’s gallery. It can also connect to your social media accounts and email should you want to print from there. Then attach your phone via the docking port (it’s compatible with both iOS and Android). You can also attach your digital camera via a lead or Wi-Fi. There are lots of editing options: you can adjust brightness, rotate, crop, apply filters, decorate with stickers, numbers, letters, hearts, and add text with a variety of fonts and colours. It will even make a collage of your pics for you. After pressing ‘print’, in roughly a minute your pic will be ready, coated with a preservation overcoat in a good enough quality to display. The unit comes with one colour cartridge and ten sheets of paper; replacements of both (together) can be bought from Amazon from £17.99 for one cartridge and 40 sheets.

Best for gifts

The Squares, £75 for a set of four, The Sugar Shed, thesugarshed.co.uk

Forget printing on mouse mats, mugs or T-shirts – The Sugar Shed takes your photos to a whole other level by printing them on to pieces of sustainably sourced hardwood, mainly ash. Each piece is hand-finished – in its Lake District studio – before it leaves The Sugar Shed, and as the grain of every tree is completely different, each piece of wood is unique. Also, as it doesn’t print with white ink, the grain of the wood shows through. We tested The Squares – four squares with a natural frame measuring 20cm x 20cm x 2cm. Ordering is straightforward: choose your product and upload your image – just be sure to use photos without ‘busy’ backgrounds (professional photos work particularly well). At this point, you can also insert any instructions, add words or dates or whatever you like to each photo. It is a personalised service so if the designers feel a photo you have chosen may not work, or are unsure about any instructions, they will call or send an email to make sure you’re completely happy before they proceed with the order. Once everyone is happy, your completed items are then posted out. Delivery is free to UK mainland addresses and took 14 days from confirmed order. The end result was stunning. It would make a fabulous wedding or christening gift and we loved that it arrived ready to gift or hang.

 


Finding friendship and support with the Oddfellows

Finding friendship and support with the Oddfellows

Finding the courage to begin socialising again after losing a partner can feel almost impossible. But when the time’s right, it’s an important step towards finding a ‘new normal’.

And it’s no easy step to take, as Joy Warren discovered when her husband, Graham, passed away five years ago after 50 years of marriage.

“Despite the fact I was still grieving, I knew I had to get out and socialise again,” explains Joy, 75. “It was weeks before I felt comfortable, but I know for many others it can take months, or even years.”

Her neighbours Janet and Michael were there for Joy every step of the way. “They made sure I was never alone for too long. I joined them at all sorts of Oddfellows events, from visiting the local dogs’ home to having a catch up at the monthly coffee morning. I signed up to the Oddfellows as a result of the wonderful new friends I made there, and I’m also involved with the organisational side of things, which I really enjoy.”

Joy found that after losing her husband, she was alone in making decisions about her home and finances.

“I’m of a generation where Graham used to take care of all that. The Oddfellows was a huge help as they have a Citizen’s Advice Line which got me through some complicated times.”

The Oddfellows offers friendship and support and is one of the UK’s largest friendly societies, with 310,000 members across its 124 Branches. Membership starts from £25 per year, and it’s run by members, for members..

Joy added: “My advice to anybody in this situation is to get out there and don’t worry about going to events alone. People are always very friendly, you can always ring ahead so there is somebody to meet you who understands.”

CONTACT INFORMATION

To learn more about the Oddfellows (//oddfellows.co.uk/firststeps) and to receive a membership pack and local events diary, call 0808 302 6807 or email enquiries@oddfellows.co.uk.


Behind the Scenes – The really wild show

Behind the Scenes – The really wild show

Longleat Safari Park in Wiltshire was the first drive-through safari park outside Africa, and is now home to more than 500 animals and attracts almost a million visitors every year. Anna Pointer discovers how everyone is kept content

Deep in the countryside, on a 9,000-acre estate near Warminster, the drive-through safari park at Longleat presents a mind-boggling array of animals – including lions, tigers, an elephant, monkeys, wolves, rhinos and giraffes. Elsewhere on the vast estate, themed zones boast koalas, crocodiles, tropical birds and every kind of creepy-crawly. The attraction is flanked by the imposing Longleat House, home to the estate’s owners, Lord and Lady Weymouth. Longleat was saved from ruin in 1966 when the sixth Marquess of Bath – Lord Weymouth’s grandfather – opened a 100-acre lion reserve to bring in much-needed cash. On launch day, the cars queued for four miles – and the park fast became a global hit. Over the next two years, giraffes, zebras, hippos, chimpanzees and seals arrived.

These days, 130 keepers look after the 500 animals and there are more than 300 other staff members, from gardeners to administrators, who ensure that the visitors and grounds are perfectly cared for too.

The early bird

With more than 44 years’ service, Ian Turner, the media and product coordinator, is one of the longest-serving staff members. “I still enjoy it. I’m the first one here each day, checking the animals are in the right place. It’s quite a responsibility!”

Bear necessities

Earlier this year, Longleat’s newest attraction, Koala Creek, welcomed four furry friends from Adelaide, Australia. Thankfully, they have coped well with the British climate. “People think they need heat but that’s not true,” explains keeper Chris Burr. “They are southern koalas so are much fluffier and hardier than the northern variety.” As they are the only ones in England, Chris needed to learn from the experts. “I recently went to Australia to find out how to care for them, because they’re highly specialist.” Each koala consumes around 800g of eucalyptus leaves per day. “There are several different types, and we grow some on the estate. Hopefully down the line, we’ll be totally self-sustainable.”

Five-a-day

The koalas share their home with long-nosed potoroos, which are rabbit-like marsupials. Ben Whitefield-Lott helps to feed them, saying, “They eat carrots, parsnips and sweet potato, so they’re pretty healthy. I love showing them off to the public.”

Fang-tastic

Moving Longleat’s new Cuban crocodiles – Fang and Cayo – to the site was quite a military operation, explains keeper Jon Ovens (right). “One came from Colchester and the other from Paignton. We had to sync their journeys perfectly so neither could
claim territory.” Entering the enclosure is a no-no for the team, though. “They’re the most aggressive species, so that’d be instant death!” warns Jon who’s role involves keeping the pool at 24°C (75°F) and ensuring the crocodiles have enough UV light. “We’re always asked if they’re real, because they bask under the UV lamps with their mouths open, barely moving.” Keeper James Gotts (left) adds, “We use tongs to feed them twice a week with dead rats, fish and chicken. Although they can jump up to two metres for their food, they couldn’t leap over the glass.”

Panda-monium

Originally from the Himalayas, Longleat’s red pandas Ajenda and Rufina are part of a successful breeding programme – which is vital for an endangered species. Keeper Sam Allworthy says, “Everyone loves koalas, but you can’t beat red pandas. This doesn’t even feel like work. They are so gentle and voluntarily come to the scales for weighing each week. We feed them four times a day and they get through masses of bamboo. Most of my life is spent cutting it. When the cubs outgrow Mum and Dad, they leave us for other zoos. I always cry like a baby. I spend more time with them than with my own family.”

Ample armadillo

Emily’s best buddy is a South American armadillo called Preston. “He’s beautiful, but I’ve had to put him on a diet, because he lived with monkeys before coming here and got fat on their scraps. He’s just had his first birthday, though, so I made him a cake as a treat.”

Hard graft

Not all jobs at Longleat are animal-based. “We do loads of general maintenance, too, such as sweeping and painting,” boat driver Finn Evans points out.
“It took me ages to get a job here, because zoos are so competitive. I knew I had to do this, though – I’m a real man-child.”Weather permitting, the boat cruise takes in sea lions and hippos. “The sea lions came all the way from California in the 70s.”

Dinner time

Food preparation is an important job, and keeper Emily Randall says, “In this section we’ve got 22 guinea pigs, tree porcupines, meerkats, tortoises and loads of reptiles, so we make hundreds of meals a day. They eat mainly fruit and vegetables, while the reptiles and birds get mice, rats and chicks.”

Warm welcome

Away from the animal action, Kirsty Spicer in Guest Services mans the phones and handles emails and customer enquiries. “We’re also the first point of call for first aid – and for finding lost children. They wander off quite a lot, especially in peak times.”

Green fingers

Five gardeners and six groundsmen maintain hundreds of acres between them, and head gardener Jules Curtis says, “It’s constantly busy. Right from January, we’re pruning, seed sowing, mulching and prepping for spring. Come summer, it’s a riot of colour, and we’re frantic with grass mowing, hedge cutting and managing the flower beds.”

Movers and shakers

Animal registrar Ryan Berry arranges the animals’ movement between Longleat and other zoos, mainly for breeding. “Each animal has a file, and we look at their genetic viability and family tree to make sure they’re not related.” For some species, there is a single gatekeeper for the whole of Europe. “For instance, one person manages all the red pandas, to ensure as much diversity as possible.” On Ryan’s want list is a breeding partner for armadillo Preston, and a giant male otter. “We’re hoping to reunite our female otter with her boyfriend over from Germany. They’ve been separated for six months.”Transporting animals is complex, however.“We need to ensure the transport is fluid and that there are no health risks.”

Health check

Ryan registers animal births and deaths, and monitors their health. “I check the medical histories and weight of the animals, and any medicines they’ve had. Our vet comes weekly to deal with any issues. Animals might have wounds, and the gorillas may have a cold. We’re genetically similar so if you’re poorly, you can’t go near them.”

Lion Kings

The ‘carnivore team’ look after the lions, Longleat’s star attraction. Carnivore keeper Ryan Tomkins says, “Our daily duties include getting the two prides into the right areas and monitoring the gates. Twice a week, we feed them, by dragging a wagon of horsemeat into their section. They chase it, so it’s like a real hunt.” While the females get 8kg, each male scoffs 11kg. “At other times, we give them reward chunks of meat, so they associate being around us as a positive thing.” When driving in the park, all that separates visitors from the beasts is their car. “We insist people keep their windows shut but some will still get out to take photos. It’s mad but we’re trained to deal with it.”

Safe hands

Park security is vitally important; £1 million has been spent on fencing in the past year alone. “We test the electric fences regularly,” says Georgina Bailey. “We use a gadget to detect faults or breaks in the voltage.” Checking the lions’ excrement is less pleasurable. “We look for worms mostly as you can tell a lot about their health from their poo. We also clean their beds daily, not that they thank us!”

Mud baths

Keeper Sophie White works with the park’s four rhinos. “They’re gentle giants, with big personalities. We cake them in mud, which acts as a sunblock in summer and insulation in winter. They enjoy it, and it helps to cultivate a good relationship with us.”The rhinos can be stubborn, though. “If they don’t want to do something, you certainly know about it!”

Necking it

Impressively, giraffe keeper Darren Taylor can identify all 18 of his charges. “They may look the same but all have a unique feature – such as a floppy ear or an extra-wobbly lip. Their personalities are different, too; some are confident, others stay at the back.” Each morning, Darren checks their mobility. “Sometimes, they develop a limp, or they may have cut themselves.”The giraffes graze on grass and hay, almost 24/7. “At night, they rest for two hours, in ten-minute spells. They’re prey animals, so they like to stay alert.”

 


Relax & Unwind

Relax & Unwind

The Titanic Spa in Huddersfield is the perfect getaway for couples or groups wanting to get away from it all. Here’s why…

Set amongst the scenic Pennines, the stunning restored 20th century mill has been converted into the UK’s first Eco-Spa. Apartment-style accommodation is provided for guests wishing to stay overnight and there are day and evening spa packages available, something for everyone. Food is locally sourced, and the Spa Bistro and the exquisite new Bar 1911 offer delicious cocktails, meals and snacks throughout your visit.

There are lots of wonderful spa treatments to choose from and we opted for the Elemis Frangipani Body Wrap, 55 minutes, £75. This blissful treatment revives dehydrated skin with a super hydrating wrap. Your skin absorbs the conditioning oils and you are kept cocooned and warm whilst being treated to a lovely facial and scalp massage. This luxurious treatment leaves you feeling pampered, glowing and beautiful!

Also try the Elemis Best Foot Forward, 25 minutes, £45. This is a real treat – your lower legs and feet are exfoliated, bathed and massaged to leave them feeling silky smooth and tension free.

We loved that the staff offered a warm welcome and such an excellent service, nothing is too much trouble, ensuring your spa experience is truly relaxing. The accommodation offers the perfect space for a group weekend away, ask about the two-bedroom apartment which also has two sofa beds in the expansive lounge area which can accommodate up to six guests and has two fabulous ensuite bathrooms.

Prices: Day packages start from £79 and include a light lunch and access to the Heat and Ice experience. Overnight breaks start from £129 and include a 55-minute treatment, a light lunch and two-course evening meal.

Titanic Spa, Low Westwood Lane, Linthwaite, Huddersfield, HD7 5UN.   To book, visit titanicspa.com or call 01484 843544


Strong yet safe

Strong yet safe…Natural Food Supplements Scientifically Proven to Work

Food supplements come in so many shapes, sizes, strengths and flavours these days.

How can we be sure we are making the right choices for us?

Health food buffs will know the benefits of many of our ingredients, but with so many supplement brands offering you ineffective strengths of key bioactives, a LOT of people are simply pouring their hard earned cash down the drain and are left with depleted faith in natural health solutions.

The Naked Pharmacy is a 100% natural registered pharmacy, based in Surrey, UK. Pharmacist and founder, Kevin Leivers, has created a range of scientifically proven micronutrient food supplements that are highly effective yet safe.‘Having worked as a consultant pharmacist in the natural medicine and supplement sector for nearly 30 years, I felt that many supplements were punching well below their potential – meaning that they could be so much more powerful and effective for health if they followed some of the scientific principles used by the conventional pharmaceutical industry’, said Kevin Leivers, Founder of The Naked Pharmacy.

‘I wanted to retain but improve the traditional elements of naturals by adding human clinical research, modern formulation and extraction techniques, along with good manufacturing and quality control practices. These are the standards we apply to all of our Naked Pharmacy supplements.’

Speak to an Expert

Our popular telephone service means you can speak to a registered pharmacist who can give you expert advice on your specific symptoms.

Each person who comes to us for advice is treated as an individual with their own story and set of symptoms. We love to build long-term relationships with our customers and see the most positive results this way.

Please call us on (+44) 01483 685630 Mon – Friday, 10am – 3pm or leave a message and a pharmacist will call you back.

Eleanor’s Story – Natural Solutions for Menopausal Symptoms

Eleanor came to us complaining of a host of menopause symptoms. We recommended a course of Saffrosun, The Naked Pharmacy’s much-loved high-strength saffron supplement. Her testimonial speaks for itself and you can read her story here.

Stop wasting your time and money on products that don’t work.

Whilst The Naked Pharmacy do not advise you use our products in place of recommended medical advice, we aim to educate about the benefits of natural alternatives and to provide effective, proven products and advice to suit each individual customer.


Behind the Scenes – Fairground Attraction

Behind the Scenes – Fairground Attraction

It’s the oldest surviving amusement park in Great Britain and in its heyday attracted 2.5 million visitors a year. HEATHER BISHOP pays a visit to Dreamland Margate to talk to those behind its reinvention

The site of Dreamland dates back to the 1870s when the then ‘Hall by the Sea’ was operated by ‘Lord’ George Sanger. The park was later bought by John Henry Iles, who renamed it Dreamland and created a pleasure garden and amusement park with the iconic Scenic Railway as the centrepiece.

Its popularity waned in the 70s and in 1981, it was sold to Dutch brothers and renamed Bembom Brothers Theme Park. In 2003, it was announced that the site was to close and be redeveloped, but locals launched a ‘Save Dreamland’ campaign, which was successful – £18 million of public funding was secured to restore Dreamland and work began in 2013.

The new-look Dreamland reopened in June 2015. There are now 26 rides, featuring old favourites such as Brooklands Speedway, the Gallopers, and the Waltzer alongside new adrenalin-pumping rides such as Dreamland Drop. But the centrepiece of the park is still the Scenic Railway – the oldest roller coaster in the UK, which is 100 years old next year.

Show time

The park is licensed to hold 12 outdoor evening music concerts a year, which this summer includes bands such as Happy Mondays and the BBC Big Band. Events and venues manager Jon Arden explains, “The food court becomes a concert bowl, so we can have an audience of 5,000 people. Today we’ve got a Baby Shark show for the children, so we’ve been working round the clock to get the big screens up and running. I’m backstage making sure everything goes smoothly.”

Peak performance

Experience manager Mark Lofthouse reckons he has the best role in the park. “It’s my job to make sure our visitors have the best day ever. I make sure staff are as upbeat as possible and look after the entertainment team.” He also looks after the Dreamland bears, Teddy and Betty, who interact with customers. “I spend the day checking that everyone is having fun,” he says.

Scream if you want to go faster

Morgan Seaman has been a ride operator at the park for two years. “My favourite job is brakeman on the Scenic Railway. It’s manually operated, so I ride on the train and control the speed and brake with a large lever. I love getting our customers to put their hands up in the air as we approach the hills.”

Preserving the past

Scott Butler, the rides and attractions operations supervisor, was born and brought up in Margate, and was involved in the ‘Save Dreamland’ campaign. “Dreamland means a lot to my family, as my uncle had the lease for the Scenic Railway for a season so I used to come here all the time. It’s such an important part of the town and we wanted it back. I started working here as a ride operator when it reopened in 2015 and I’ve worked my way up to supervisor. It’s been great being part of the team who have built it back up and seeing it restored to its former glory.”

Wheely windy

Every ride has weather limitations, especially tall ones such as the Big Wheel, which is 34m (110ft) high. The park uses four anemometers to test wind speed plus a lightning-monitoring system to give early warnings of storms. “We keep a constant eye on the wind speed,” says Alina O’Reilly of the Big Wheel team. “If it reaches 16mph on the ground we know that it’s likely to be double that at the top of the wheel. The operations team decide whether or not the ride needs to close.”

Climbing high

Before the park opens, a team of engineers spend several hours checking all the rides. Junior mechanical engineer Andrew Stannard is greasing the bearings on the Big Wheel. “The Big Wheel is the most time-consuming to maintain because of its sheer size,” he says. “You have to check every single nut, bolt and bearing. To do this job I had to have rescue training and learn how to use a harness. There are ladders on the forks of the wheel that we use to climb up it. The height doesn’t bother me – you get
a great view when you’re at the top.”

Guest list

Commercial manager Abby Wise looks after retail and memberships at the park. “We’ve introduced an annual membership so you get unlimited rides and discounts in the shop and on food and drinks and access to pre-sale tickets for events. We’ve refurbished the shop, too, and I had the fun job of buying bright, colourful and quirky things for it.”

Playtime

Daisie Howell is food and beverages host in the Octopus’s Garden – an under-eights’ soft play area and cafe. “I used to come here as a child when it was called Wally’s World. I’ve been here three years and when I first started, a mum came in with her newborn twins. It’s been great to see them grow up – when they come in, they always give me a cuddle.”

Get your motor running

Operations director Andrew Gall is in charge of maintenance for all the rides. Today, he’s in the motor room of the Scenic Railway. “It takes three hours a day to do checks,” he says. “First, a carpenter assesses the wooden structure, then mechanical and electrical engineers inspect it. The motor room is the only original part of the railway left and it houses the mechanism that pulls the train.”

Looking to the future

Dreamland CEO Eddie Kemsley was here
for the reopening of the park in 2015. “Margate, like many British seaside towns, took a hit in the 70s and 80s when cheap airfares came in and everyone started going on holiday to Spain,” she explains. “But since the huge investment, Dreamland is back as a major tourist attraction. Our aim was to preserve its heritage and honour the past as well as look to the future, so we’ve got rides from the 20s right through to the modern day. My goal is to make visiting the park like going to a mini festival. This year, we’ve made it free to enter so you can just pop in for an ice cream or listen to some music. There are face painters, rides, music, food, performances, street theatre and characters.”

Do the floss

Ray Marino runs Naughty Floss with his partner, Alexandria. They’ve been
at Dreamland since 2016, serving natural vegan candyfloss from their refurbished vintage caravan, Betty. “We’re a small family business and we couldn’t have found a better spot to have a pitch. Over the two weeks of Easter, there were 100,000 visitors to the park and we had a long queue from lunchtime until the end of the day. On a busy day, we can squeeze four members of staff in here. It gets very cosy!”

On a roll

The retro Roller Room is one of the most frequently photographed spots in Dreamland. Guest experience assistant Luke McFarlane works in the boot room.
“It’s always busy and I love chatting to the customers. Last week, there was a gentleman who was 81 and his 74-year-old wife. They used to come to Dreamland and skate when they were young and it was lovely to hear them reminisce about the old days. They put on their roller boots and they were whizzing around the rink!”

Family fun

Charlotte, John, Raffy and Sebastian Coleman have come to Dreamland on a day trip from Biddenden in Kent. “It’s our first visit to the park and it’s been brilliant,” says Charlotte. “The boys don’t like big, scary rides but there’s loads to do here, plus you’ve got the beach right outside.”

Residents’ revival

“Dreamland is a huge part of the town and we want locals to see it as a place for them, too,” says Victoria Barrow-Williams, who is the creative learning and participation manager. She encourages community groups and schools to use the space and runs workshops. “We run lots of different workshops, such as engineering and making slogan T-shirts.”

Welcome party

Harley Dyton works in guest safety and opens up the doors to the public each morning. “We may also sort out complaints about queue- jumpers or help people who drop their phones on rides. Though, it’s the engineers that retrieve them as they’re usually in restricted areas.”

Caught on camera

Carl Hill has worked at Dreamland since 2015, starting as a ride operator, then as rides team leader and PA to the chief engineer before becoming operations controller two years ago. “I used to come to Dreamland every summer as a child,” he recalls. “I’d stay with my Auntie Myra and Uncle Eddie for five weeks over the holidays and the highlight was our trips here. It was like a dream come true when I got a job here, as I had such happy memories. When I started, the park wasn’t finished, so I helped to rebuild it, putting up fences and learning all the rides before we opened. Now I’m based in the control room monitoring the 120 CCTV cameras around the park. Times have changed but Dreamland has retained its magic, especially for little ones.”