WIN fantastic festive family package

WIN fantastic festive family package




I will be in touch over the coming days to arrange for receipt of your prizes. Please see terms and conditions below.

Thank you to everyone who entered – and supported the launch of my new website/business.

As an entrant you qualify for a new year 20% discount off my PR and copywriting rates for any commissions signed up by the end of January.

If you have a small or medium-sized business and are interested in hearing more abut how I can boost its profile, contact me for a no-obligation chat at:


TO celebrate the launch of my new Warwick-based website and blog – and to add to the festive fun of Christmas – I am giving away a fantastic family prize package to one lucky person randomly selected from the prize draw pot.

If you have retweeted or reposted my launch promos on Facebook or Twitter – or have emailed me from the contact form on this website with the prefix ‘Prize Draw’ – you are automatically entered into the draw to win ALL of the following great Warwick prizes:

  • Family admission for four to Warwick Castle.
  • Meal for four plus £50 drinks voucher at The Globe, Warwick.
  • Voucher for 10 children to enjoy a session at Jump In trampoline arena, Warwick.

There is NO LIMIT on the amount of times you can enter. Just keep retweeting and reposting – and the winner will be selected and announced seven days from now, on Boxing Day, and will be contacted shortly afterwards with details of how to claim their prizes. (Please scroll to bottom for terms and conditions.)


Warwick Castle has this year’s festive season all wrapped up for families and friends with treats and surprises for all ages until 2nd January, 2019.

Seasonal storytelling and Santa Sleepovers in Knight’s Village are on the wish list at the historic castle, open every day apart from Christmas Day to thrill and delight the whole family with birds of prey displays, meetings with Santa and Castle characters aplenty. Book day tickets in advance online from only £18 per person.

Pull on your wellies, button up your coats and wrap up with a scarf for a winter walk around the Castle’s grounds. Families can explore the HORRIBLE HISTORIES® CHRISTMAS TRAIL, collecting stamps along the way to claim festive prizes, wander the Castle’s 64 acres of gardens and marvel at the twice daily WINTER BIRDS OF PREY SHOW with the Castle’s beautiful and powerful creatures swooping low over the Castle ramparts.

Indoors, the Castle’s Elves ensure every room and rampart is festively bedecked in time for the first yuletide guests on 24 November, with the 20-feet high Christmas tree taking pride of place in the medieval Great Hall.

Join Mr Claus at SANTA’S STATELY BREAKFAST at selected dates in November and December, from £55 per person3. Dining in the opulence of the State Dining Room, the jolly couple will add a festive feeling to families as they enjoy a delicious feast of a full English breakfast.

STORIES WITH SANTA offers the youngest guests a heart-warming twenty-minute experience including a jolly sing song, helping the Elves prepare for ‘the big day’ and a story with Santa in the Library. Over in THE PRINCESS TOWER join Princess Felice, the true love of homegrown-hero Guy of Warwick, to help her solve Christmas riddles and reunite the couple in time for their Winter Wedding.

Magical SANTA SLEEPOVERS in Knight’s Village winter wonderland include a wake-up call by one of Santa’s elves and a gift for young guests. Spend the night in a Woodland Lodge by the River Avon from £332 for a family of four sharing a Woodland Lodge, including one night’s accommodation, breakfast, two-days Castle entry and car parking.

For a magical memorable Christmas, visit to book your stay or day visit.

PLUS: Warwick Castle is hatching a spectacular new show for 2019, giving visitors even more reasons to flock to the historic attraction. The new show – The Falconer’s Quest – will join existing performances and attractions including the Horrible Histories Maze and Castle Dungeon to create a truly awe-inspiring calendar of events at the popular Midlands destination.

Launching in April 2019, The Falconer’s Quest promises to be the UK’s largest display of avian adventure, coupling a riveting storyline and live action with amazing aerial feats by a wide array of birds of prey ranging from Red Kites to the largest winged star of the show, the Bald Eagle.

Following the sell-out success of Dragon Slayer – the Castle’s first night-time show in August 2018 – it was also announced that the live-action retelling of Midlands legend Guy of Warwick will return for 2019.

“We are delighted to be expanding our spectacular shows offering with a new birds of prey performance in 2019,” says Nick Blofeld, Divisional Director at Warwick Castle. “Our avian friends are one of the most popular attractions at the Castle and we will now be able to showcase a wider range of birds in a more creative way, highlighting the esteem they were held in during medieval times and portraying their personalities through an exciting new performance.”

Visitors can spread their wings after a day exploring with a special ‘Early Bird’ short break offer of up to 30% off for stays in Warwick Castle’s Knight’s Village. Including two days’ Castle entry, overnight accommodation, a hearty breakfast and car parking, families also enjoy exclusive entertainment including meeting some of the feathered flying favourites from The Falconer’s Quest. Nesting in the Knight’s Village starts from only £172 per night for a family of four in a Woodland Lodge: book online at before 31 January 2019.


The Globe pub, restaurant and hotel in Theatre Street, Warwick, recently reopened following “a minor refurbishment”.

Changes at The Globe include the installation of a large wood-fired pizza oven, the creation of two new luxury boutique bedrooms and an upgrade and redecoration of the 16 other rooms. Many others have commented on the imaginative transformation which has created a lighter, brighter and softer environment with a focus on world travel and adventure.

Charlotte Pare, the General Manager said: “From the moment you walk through our doors we want to transport you on a round-the-clock journey from breakfast through to dinner invoking memories of the destinations far and wide. Whether you are staying overnight on a sight-seeing or business trip, taking a break from a travel itinerary, meeting up with local friends or simply celebrating life, we hope everyone will find a corner of The Globe that is going to make them feel at ease and at home.”

The bar, pizzeria and dining area are filled with an eclectic mix of reminders of travel both past and present. The walls are adorned with vintage maps from all corners of the globe and a rare collection of 200 vintage postcards written from place names that have been lost for generations. These are interspersed with traditional, hand-crafted baskets made in Africa, a colourful Albanian rug, a gilded Far Eastern frieze, tribal masks and salvaged vintage pizza pans.

Whilst your eyes are taken by the decorative textures, fabrics, and unexpected reminders of overseas adventure, your senses are also heightened by the delicious aromas of the Mediterranean. These are wafting from both the open theatre kitchen and the wood-fired pizza oven where pizzaiolos are preparing hand-crafted, authentic pizzas with some inventive Neapolitan-style recipes. These are infused with the sweetness of the San Marzano tomatoes and the tang of Fior di Latte Mozzarella brought over from Italy’s speciality producers every week, encouraging you to discover more.

Travelling through the Mediterranean-inspired menu that flexes throughout the day, guests will find charcoal-grilled meats, fish and vegetables prepared with fresh herbs and spices, nutritious salads, imaginative vegetarian and vegan options and a new menu for the young. These are supported by starters and desserts and a troupe of cocktails, wines, beers, Fairtrade coffees and teas that reflect the remarkable nature of the globe.

The new en-suite bedrooms- including a large, deluxe double – and the other 16 rooms are all individually redecorated to a super-high boutique standard using sumptuous wallpaper and hand-picked accessories bringing their total accommodation to 18 rooms.


This fun-packed trampoline park, in Hermes Close, contains over 65 trampolines to create a diverse selection of indoor activities, including a free jump area, dodgeball court, basketball lanes, tumble tracks, toddler area, ladder and slack line challenges, Battle Beam, airbag freestyle area, drop slide, interactive wall and foam pits.

Onsite facilities include baby change, disabled access and FREE parking. Plus there’s a café for those who prefer to leisurely spectate while the kids enjoy their workout.

And the arena has even embraced the festive spirit with the launch of its Elf socks. (Trampoline socks must be purchased onsite, but can be reused on subsequent visits.)

And the fun doesn’t stop because the arena is open all year round, seven days a week, 52 weeks a year… closing only for Christmas Day and Boxing Day.

More information and booking can be found at:


Warwick Castle:
Day admission ticket for up to 5 people, valid for use by 28th February, 2019.

The Globe:
The Globe, 10 Theatre Street, Warwick is part of Oakman Inns and Restaurants Ltd

  • This offer can only be redeemed at The Globe and cannot be used at any other Oakman Inns and Restaurants.
  • A meal constitutes four starters or two sharing plates, four main courses and four desserts from either the a la carte or specials menu.
  • A drinks tab up to the value of £50 is included within the prize.
  • All other costs are to be covered by the guest.
  • The prize cannot to be redeemed on Christmas Eve, Christmas Day, Boxing Day, New Year’s Eve, New Year’s Day, Valentine’s Day or Mother’s Day.
  • Not valid in conjunction with any other offer.
  • The prize is as stated, and no cash or other alternatives will be offered.

Jump In: No restriction on days or times but Jump In socks must be purchased with each admission ticket.


SO, now what do I do?

SO, now what do I do?

IT’S been 30 years of rude awakenings by my alarm clock signalling the start of another working day at the office.

Since taking the decision to go freelance and work from home, would I be in for a rude awakening of a very different sort?

Well, yes.

First, let me be very clear about one thing – I love being a journalist, I’m proud of my achievements and have absolutely no regrets about my path in life. Three decades at the coalface of local news gathering, learning my stock-in trade from cub reporter all the way up to editor, has been the adventure of a lifetime. It is the environment in which I have done most of my growing and learned most about people.

I have made lifelong friends and lifelong memories and they will continue to be cherished forever.

So why am I now tossing away the comfort blanket of my career and taking what can only be acknowledged as a ‘leap into the unknown?’

At 48, I’m too young to retire but old enough to bring a wealth of experience to the table. I still have a lot to offer and there’s plenty more time to explore new avenues and ideas.

But, at 48, I’ve also finally ‘come of age’, discovering new maturity and the courage to be true to myself and to make necessary change in my life.

Sad to say however, it was a decision also partly driven by the changing face of the industry.

An industry in transition

For more than two centuries the morning newspaper was as much a central feature of every household as tea and jam. And it’s certainly been my bread and butter for an entire career.

For any print journalist hushed talk of ‘the future of newspapers’ is like addressing the elephant in the room. But there will always be a need for quality journalism – the question is, just in what form?

The pen may be mightier than the sword – but there’s also a reluctant realisation that cuts as deep as any blade.

As the modern era of news consumerism takes hold, so the industry has had to adapt.

Continued changing social trends and growing digital domination has impacted heavily on newspaper sales and advertising revenues, readers instead opting to swipe their way through the headlines on all manner of devices.

You have only to look at the industry headlines on a daily basis to get a worrying forecast as titles tumble and publishing groups record huge losses.

Research shows news is as popular as ever, but busier lives and a growing appetite for short soundbites and social media forums is taking its toll on the printed product. As an editor of more than four years I can state that categorically – and I take no pleasure in it.

Despite this, I believe it is vitally important we never lose sight of a local newspaper’s USP – investigative and championing journalism with its roots set firmly in the local community.

But, with leaner budgets and fewer resources than ever before, quality journalism is becoming harder to fund. That’s why community newspapers with trained and passionate journalists  should be cherished and, most importantly, supported. If you’ve not had occasion to call upon a local journalist to step in on your behalf, one day you just might. And I hope they’re still there, being tenacious and campaigning for their readers. Help them now so they can continue to help you!

The platforms available to local publishers need differentiation. The mobile experience is live, short and geographically aware. On a tablet, the experience is image-rich and takes advantage of the fact video is more widely consumed as users relax with their device in the evenings as routinely as they would put the kettle on. This responsive-content approach requires community newspapers to think broadly and create the best content for each medium and the technology to help deliver it.

So what does the future hold for the regional press after what has been 15 years of cuts and decline? In my experience, local newspapers are still usually the first port of call for local news online. They have not lost their dominance of local news largely because, in the most part, they still have the best news-gathering networks and the trusted brand on which to publish it. Their brands, in my opinion, may ultimately prove their saviour.

Despite the shifting sands of news consumption, it is my firm belief that quality print journalism still has the power to pack a punch at a local level – holding authority to account time after time for the benefit of local residents. Never underestimate the power of a phone call or email from the local newspaper! I’ve seen the effects time and time again.

That said, in my opinion, not enough newspapers are tackling the threat of digital dominance with enough urgency. It’s time to wake up and smell the coffee. Social media, in particular, is becoming a much bigger player in the game! Ignore it at our peril.

I guess I would conclude that we MUST embrace the future, but MUST NOT lose sight of the lessons and traditions of the past.

New chapter

So, what of my new-found freedom from deadlines and headlines?

Well, a few weeks in, it’s been busier than ever, so I really need to get a handle on this scaling back my hours idea!

Working for yourself has its pros and cons like anything else and here are my observations so far . .


  • I can work the hours that suit me and choose my work.
  • I have no one to answer to except the clients.
  • As a working mum, no more mad dashes to school appointments or domestic engagements and spending more time around the family.
  • Reacquainting myself with my friends and social life!
  • Easing the general pressures on the household by having more freedom to stay on top of some of those domestic chores.
  • Relieving the stress of what was (I’m not going to lie) an increasingly demanding job.
  • No more juggling of holidays. (Holiday spreadsheets used to be our bible in the Chalmers household!)
  • Self-fulfilment of running my own business.


  • A lot of unpaid time chasing the work.
  • No sick pay or holiday pay.
  • Can get lonely. (Fortunately I thrive on my own company and work best on my own, so not a big problem for me compared to many.)
  • Miss the buzz of breaking news. (But don’t miss the weekly pressure of deadline.)

Stepping away from the 9 til 5 (does anyone really work 9-5 any more?!) took more courage than anything that’s gone before – and it only really happened thanks to the support of my family and friends who helped me delve deep to find the confidence I sorely craved. So I suppose I should say ‘thank you’ to them now – because, despite my fears and insecurities, this has proved to be the ONE OF THE BEST DECISIONS of my life.

And thanks in no small part too to a certain fellow freelance (she knows who she is!) who has been – and continues to be – in my corner during the early days. Having a support network around you, I’ve discovered, is essential because, while I know my trade, the world of self-employment plants you back at the bottom of a whole new learning curve. (I’ve never been great with learning curves – but adapting nicely.)

I will always be a journalist – I will always be passionate about local newspapers (long may they continue) – and, most importantly, I’ll always support them.

It’s just that nowadays, I’m quite enjoying the prospect of my new challenge and there’s still plenty of time for new adventures.

Maybe we’ll meet along the way.


Slapstick and festive fun aplenty

Slapstick and festive fun aplenty

(December 2018)

When it comes to tickling our funny bones for the festive season, pantomimes don’t come much more hilarious than the Belgrade Theatre’s seasonal offering.

And, despite having a lot to live up to, this year’s hilarity is just as raucous thanks to the slapstick superiority of local comedy favourites Iain Lauchlain and Craig Hollingsworth.

Leading the way as dame Nanny McWheeze and the palace jester Muggles in Sleeping Beauty, this tried and tested stage pairing has audiences howling with laughter at every opportunity

And they’re ably assisted by the rest of the talented cast and crew from Imagine Theatre who continue to churn out panto mania at its best.

They take the traditional story of a princess stricken to a deep sleep for 100 years by the evil spell of the panto villain, and sprinkle it with contemporary jokes and references which are particularly appreciated by the younger audience members.

Laura Judge prompted plenty of boos and hisses as dastardly Carabosse whose wicked intent was happily thwarted in the end by our band of heroes in the guises of Lauchlain, Hollingsworth and Joanna Thorne (Prince Valiant).

Stand-out moments range from the stunning special effects conjured up for the dragon fight scene through to the comedy highlights of the exquisitely executed musical number If I Were Not In Panto. (Timing was everything here!) But it was the fantastically farcical (and messy) cake decorating scenes that really got our sides splitting ­– I’m not sure that the hapless audience member who was central to the jokes appreciated it quite as much as the rest of us however -which only made it even funnier!

All in all, another triumph for the Belgrade with a pantomime as hilarious as we’ve now come to expect from multi-talented writer, director and actor Lauchlain and his team.

I’m already looking forward to next year.

Sleeping Beauty plays at the Belgrade Theatre in Coventry until 5th January and tickets are available at:

The height of luxury

The height of luxury

Will’s Treehouse

(November 2018)

LIVING amongst the trees is a promise kept by the owners of Winchcombe Farm in Upper Tysoe.

In Will’s Tree House – our lofty abode for the weekend – a sycamore trunk literally growing through the kitchen leaves you in no doubt you’re experiencing rustic living at its best.

And it doesn’t come any more charming than here, a breathtaking Cotswolds oasis which takes luxury to a level as high as its roofline.

The treehouse is one of three unique wooden lodges at the Farm designed with outdoor living in mind – but not at the expense of comfort. In fact, it’s so comfortable you won’t want to leave!

The hot tub can comfortably accommodate four people.

The accommodation, which affords the most tranquil vista, includes a (very inviting) four-person hot tub situated on a lower deck, and, while the weather was decidedly wintry, quality time luxuriating in here proved to be a big lure. The outdoor shower is a great bonus – but not perhaps in November – and the complimentary robes show nothing has been overlooked when it comes to convenience – and discretion!

Outdoor pizza oven

Indeed, there is attention to detail in absolute abundance, including an extremely well equipped tree-lined deck area kitted out with charcoal pizza oven, gas barbecue (complete with fuel and coals), hanging chairs, giant beanbag, hammock, dining area and wooden ergonomic sun loungers.

Good use is made of the space.

Limited space is used ingeniously in its interior design. The main living space houses a king size bed and some clever full size single bunk beds that fold down from a hidden cabin behind the huge leather sofa. The very best of modern home comforts are laid on in the form of the 55” SMART TV & DVD with Netflix, free WIFI, speaker and – for those who do insist on bringing the kids – even a Wii U handheld console. (I suppose it buys the adults some bubbles time!)

The compact kitchen is up a couple of small steps from the main living room and is furnished with all high-spec accessories, including built-in gas hob, electric oven, fridge (with freezer compartment), microwave, dishwasher and coffee machine. And being greeted by the sight of a welcome basket comprising fresh milk, fruit and scones with clotted cream and jam was the perfect start to our stay. All those annnoying little essentials such as washing up liquid, dishwasher tablets, foil, clingfilm, salt/pepper, oil, tea and coffee etc. aren’t forgotten either. Even the least weary of travellers couldn’t help but appreciate a ‘healthy’ serving a tea and cake to kick off the holiday. We certainly did!

And for the culinary connoisseurs amongst us, there is even a mini herb garden on the outdoor deck to handpick fresh ingredients from. I told you they’ve thought of everything!

Ergonomic design wins through again in the small but sumptuous bathroom which accommodates a bath – with power shower over – plus complimentary toiletries and plenty of soft towels.

There are plenty of seating and lounging areas on the spacious outside decking area

Outdoors, for those who want to make the most of this countryside retreat, they have also thought to include binoculars for spying on the wildlife by day – heron, woodpeckers, ducks and moorhens are a frequent sight – as well as a telescope for stargazing by night.

The woodland area in which the tree house nestles is a children’s paradise with pirate ship, lookout tower, climbing frame for toddlers and ground-level trampoline. And, for when the weather turns, there’s a selection of board games available for family time, plus reading material – for alone time.

When the LPG-powered underfloor heating didn’t always quite manage to keep the chills at bay in late November, a small but effective electric heater stored in the cupboard provided ample back-up when called upon.

When it comes to taking a break from the rat race Will’s Tree House (sleeping up to four), The Chicken Shed (sleeping up to four) and Bob’s Lodge (sleeping up to eight) are the epitome of quality over quantity at Winchcombe. And the tranquillity (we encountered more sheep than people) is a big part of its appeal. The downside? With only three lodges, demand is high as word spreads. So booking early is a must.

This really is the perfect escape. And, whether you’ve travelled from afar or just around the corner to get there, I guarantee it will feel like a million miles away.

Visit the site at:

Over the moon with this dining experience

Over the moon with this dining experience

(October 2018)

EDWARD Moon in Chapel Street, Stratford is a long-established award-winning English brasserie which comes with plenty of its own history.

Serving up high quality food using local English ingredients, the extensive menu offers a mouthwatering selection with something to suit every palate.

With these promises ringing in my ears, I accepted an invitation for my family and I to head down and sample their fine fare for ourselves.

As well as the a la carte offering, there was a Specials blackboard on display which only served to make the choice even more tantalising.

Edward Moon restaurant

Among our choices were a delicious Steak and Ale Proper Pie with hand cut chunks of steak braised in full flavoured real ale and horseradish sauce and accompanied with piping hot chips and vegetables.

My Beef Bourguignon (pieces of braised beef in red wine, pancetta and shallot sauce served with gratin potatoes and seasonal vegetables) was tasty and tender and I was very happy with my choice.

My son’s 8oz chargrilled Rib-Eye steak is direct from Barry The Butcher in Stratford and comes with a choice of stilton, green peppercorn or red wine sauces. It was beautifully cooked to specifications and heartily devoured.

Stand-out starters include Moon’s Scotch Egg with Black Pudding, Thai Spiced Fishcakes, Deep Breaded Brie and Oak Smoked Salmon and Prawn Salad.

Main courses range from Moon’s Signature Shank of Lamb and Homemade Steak Burger to Asparagus, Pea and Wild Mushroom Tagliatelle, Slow-Roasted Belly Pork and Butternut Squash and Coconut Curry.

Time for desserts came around, and for those of us who still had room, the dark chocolate brownie proved a real hit. Generous portion sizes too.
Other tempting treats included Blackcurrant and Vanilla Crème Brulee, Caramelised Zesty Lemon Tart, Traditional Bread and Butter Pudding and Banoffee Pie as well as additional choices offered on the Specials menu.

If you don’t have a sweet tooth, the cheese board is impressive with five different cheeses specially selected from around the UK.

So who is Edward Moon to whom their branding is dedicated?
He was apparently a travelling chef working in the British Colonial service in the early 1900s. Employed by governors and ambassadors around the globe he was famous as an eccentric capable of creating a culinary ‘Little England’ wherever he was posted. The banquets he cooked for, serving his traditional recipes and dishes became legendary amongst diplomatic circles.

Edward was also a creative cook, enthusiastic and excited by the local ingredients, cooking styles and methods he encountered on his exotic travels. He retired to England in 1940 and recorded his experiences, philosophy and recipes in a book ‘The Travelling Cook’s Companion’. It is the spirit described in this book that has helped inspire our restaurants.

And the owner’s mission to aspire to this spirit certainly shines through in the menus and service in Chapel Street.

Hearty simple English fare done well – I can vouch for that.

In terms of value, it stacks up pretty well for Stratford prices. The pre-theatre menu is a particularly good proposition at two courses for £13.50 (12-2.30pm) or £14.95 (5-6.30pm).