Choctastic event for Easter!

Choctastic event for Easter!

Henley Chocolates
Henley Chocolates

THE sweet smell of spring is in the air – because, to celebrate Easter, The Swan Hotel in Kineton is hosting a charity Chocolate Tasting Afternoon.

The event, on Sunday, April 14th, will be presented by Henley Chocolates founder Sally Daniels, who will talk about the history of chocolate followed by a chocolate-making demonstration and even the chance to taste.

The self-taught chocolatier’s business grew from humble beginnings, making a few truffles in her kitchen, to her current artisan shop and workshop at Yew Tree Farm Craft Centre in Henley-in-Arden where customers can watch their chocolates being made. She also runs chocolate-making workshops.

The chocolates are all handmade by Sally and her team using sustainable ingredients purchased where possible from small local producers.

Proceeds from the event, as well as a raffle on the day, will go to Friends of Kineton Primary School.

Sally said: “I am super excited to be supporting such a great cause. At Henley Chocolates we are passionate about hand crafting delicious artisan chocolate from real sustainable ingredients and looking after the people and environment around us.

“We also believe in having fun and so as a mum it is great to have the opportunity to contribute to the amazing work of The Friends of Kineton Primary School- not only assisting with purchasing educational materials but also helping to fund extra-curricular fun activities for the children.

“I really enjoy sharing my knowledge of chocolate with others, enabling them to discover fantastic flavours and maybe even inspiring them to have a go at chocolate-making in the future.

“The afternoon will be a celebration of all things chocolate, from its fun playful nature to the serious world of award-winning truffle making.

The talk and demonstration start at 2pm and there will also be the opportunity to buy chocolates at the end.

Tickets cost £10 and include a welcome glass of prosecco and nibbles. They are available behind the bar at The Swan or by calling 01926 640664.

The Swan

Henley Chocolates

Escaping reality. . . eventually!

Escaping reality. . . eventually!

Grand Escape, Birmingham
Didn’t quite make it. . . Grand Escape, Birmingham

EVER felt like just escaping from reality?

Me too. And why not go the whole hog with a fun escape room experience.

This clue-cracking escapology is not a new phenomenon anymore. There’s quite a few new escape rooms opening their doors – and then firmly locking them again! – around the country. And I’ve had a fun – and at times frustrating – time negotiating many of them.

It was with curious anticipation then that I grabbed a handful of friends (kicking and screaming) and headed to one of the Midlands’ newest venues to put our teamwork to the test. (It didn’t bode well. . .)

Grand Escape in Birmingham has opened two rooms to budding escapees including Quest For The Grail. But our destiny was of a more ghostly nature as we were nervously ushered into Paranormal Room 1409.

Dubbed ‘one of the hardest escape rooms in Birmingham,’ confidence wasn’t high among our team of novices.

The scene is set when, on booking into a hotel room during a spontaneous weekend in New York, it becomes clear only one room is available: Room 1409. On a previous trip you had heard a spooky rumour about that exact room. . . something about a group of unsuspecting holiday-makers being locked inside and vanishing. But it couldn’t be true, could it?

With few other options, you are shown to your room and all is fine. But as you hear the key turn in the lock, reality and paranoia begin to blur. You have one hour to get out. . .

There is a series of questions and riddles posed and time is of the essence as you’re only given 60 minutes to advance your way through the challenges and escape.

It might be a padlock combination, a numeric interpretation or clever riddle you’re tasked with solving. Each step moves you one step closer to the finish line – a bit like a metaphorical board game.

Our group of four ‘roomies,’ as I like to call us, all brought something different to the table – although not quite enough it seems as we failed to make it out in time – and that was despite a lot of clues and prompts courtesy of the TV monitor.

It brought an interesting new set of dynamics to our friendship group and was a fascinating experiment in all sorts of ways. Exhilarating and frustrating in equal measure, successfully completing this quest requires top teamworking, and communication skills as well as lateral thinking.
But most of all it requires a desire to just go with the flow – and have fun.

It’s hard not to take an escape room too seriously. As soon as you’re left to your own devices something comes over you. Failure is NOT an option. Except it is. . . so don’t be too hard on yourself if you don’t make it out in the time. (I’m bound to say that I suppose!)

Great fun though – and there’s always next time. . . tick tock tick tock. . .

For more information visit:

Pressure growing on foodbanks

Pressure growing on foodbanks

Stratford foodbank
Stratford foodbank

STRATFORD’S Foodbank is facing an exceptionally high demand – putting pressure on food stocks, specifically short shelf life items such as UHT milk and UHT juice.

Supplies of rice are also running low. These items are essential to the charity, enabling them to provide nutritionally balanced emergency food parcels to those facing crisis in the Stratford area.

Foodbank Manager Marion Homer said: “Unfortunately, our volunteers are coping with a high and growing need for our services.

“After a 57% growth in demand in 2017, due we believe to the introduction of Universal Credit, we had hoped it would fall back. However, 2018 saw a further 11% increase, and in the early weeks of 2019 we have seen another worrying rise. In January we distributed a total of 344 emergency food parcels, compared to 186 in the same period last year.

“What’s even more concerning is the number of children we support, reflecting the trend that more and more families are needing our help. The percentage of children receiving our parcels rose from an average of 27%, over the lifetime of our foodbank, to 41% in January this year. In real figures we fed 140 children this January compared to 55 last January.

“It is against this growth in demand that we once again seek the help of Stratford residents. Fortunately, local people continue to be generous and food donations have also risen. In 2017 we received over £50,000 worth of food and in 2018 that climbed to over £58,000. However, we do need to ask for continued help, and right now we badly need donations of UHT milk, UHT juice and rice.”

Donations of tinned and packet food (no fresh or chilled items) can be left at the Foodbank’s collection baskets at Tesco, Morrison’s, Waitrose, Budgens in Bidford, and at Holy Trinity Church. Items can also be bought directly to the Foodbank’s warehouse on the car park at Tesco, opposite the Click ‘n’ Collect area on a Monday and Wednesday afternoon between 2pm and 3.30pm.

Stratford Town Trust logo




About Stratford upon Avon Foodbank:

  • Since starting in Jan 2013, Stratford’s foodbank has distributed 10,264 food parcels, 27% of which were for children.
  •  In 2017, the foodbank distributed 2,163 parcels – a 57% year on year rise
  •  In 2018 the foodbank distributed 2411 parcels – an 11% year on year rise
  •  In 2017 30% of parcels went to children, in 2018 31% went to children
  • An average 200 parcels a month are currently distributed
  •  Most clients visit the foodbank a maximum of two times.
  • Food parcels are designed for short-term emergency use, each parcel provides three days’ worth of nutritionally balanced tinned and packet food
  • Foodbank vouchers are distributed through referral agencies such as Citizens Advice, and Stratford District Council and various other community health services.
  • In January 2019 children represented 41% of all parcels distributed. 

Find out more at

Spring is in the air in Kineton

Spring is in the air in Kineton

The Swan, Banbury Street, Kineton.
The Swan, Banbury Street, Kineton.

THE Swan Hotel in Kineton is celebrating spring with the launch of its new seasonal menu on Saturday (March 2nd), following the appointment of a new head chef.

New dishes available from this date include Seared Mackerel Fillet (served with warm tomato salad and chorizo butter); Rosemary and Garlic-Baked Camembert to share (served with red onion marmalade and toast); Charred Tuna Loin served with herb roasted vegetables, lemon cous-cous and basil oil); Truffled Macaroni Cheese (with cheddar, mozzarella cheese sauce, truffle oil and dressed salad) and Flat Iron Chicken (served with chips, garlic butter and rocket salad).

New dessert offerings include Cherry Bakewell and Vanilla ice cream, Passionfruit and Mango Pavlova and Lime Sorbet and Coffee Parfait and Cinnamon Doughnuts.

Ian Carter. The Swan, Kinton.
Ian Carter, Head Chef at The Swan, Kineton.

They are all the inspiration of the Swan’s new head chef Ian Carter from Newbold on Stour.

Ian, 40, arrived at the hotel, in Banbury Street, just before Christmas following stints at The One Elm in Stratford, The Jam House in Birmingham, St Enodoc Hotel in Cornwall and the Ebrington Arms in Ebrington.

He said: “I quickly identified how the food needed uplifting so everything is now freshly cooked on the premises.

“As we’re moving into spring we are getting away from the slow and low kind of cooking into hitting the pan with fresh ingredients and straight onto the plate.

“There are also more fresh fish dishes on the menu and I’m confident once people start coming in, to try them, they will want to come back again and again.”

The classic dishes still feature too though, including burgers, pizzas, steaks, bangers and mash, mixed grill and fish and chips. Plus, there’s a daily specials menu if you’re not already too spoilt for choice.

And fresh ingredients are sourced locally from A M Bailey – for vegetables and dairy – and Barry The Butcher, both in Stratford.

Back behind the bar, The Swan’s extensive drinks offering includes beers and ciders from Britain’s oldest brewery Shepherds Neame as well as Doombar and Master Bew ales, with more guest ales soon to be announced.

Licensee Carl Harrison took over The Swan in 2017 after previously running The View riverside fish and chip restaurant in Stratford-upon-Avon.

He says the new chef heralds an exciting fresh chapter for the hotel and one that is set to place its culinary reputation firmly on the local map.

He said: “Now that we’ve got a good chef on board and one that is passionate and wants to make this place as good as it can be, the idea of adding seasonality to our menu will really help to push his vision for what we want to do.

“And it’s something that’s been missing in the village. We want to add that something extra to encourage more people to come to the Swan and see what we’re about.

“We’ve now got a passionate team that really wants to make a difference to the village. Customer feedback has always been so important to us. Food quality and customer service are more important than anything.”

Photos by

The winner is entitled to a three-course meal from the Spring Menu for two people.
Drinks and supplements are not included.
Prize subject to booking and availability.

The winner of a meal for two is Matt Elofson from Kineton. Thanks to everyone who entered.

Have you heard about this event coming up at The Swan next month?


Bum fresh and ready to roll. . .

Bum fresh and ready to roll. . .

Billionaire Boy The Musical
Dean Nolan, Ryan Heenan, Lem Knights and Sophia Nomvete in Billionaire Boy the Musical. Photo by Manuel Harla.

DAVID Walliams’ children’s books have sold more than 25 million copies -and it seems there’s now no escaping him on the stage either.

Billionaire Boy follows the hilarious and heartwarming story of schoolboy Joe Spud, who becomes an overnight billionaire after his dad invents a new kind of loo roll. It’s Bum Fresh – wet on one side, dry on the other!

Suddenly flush, Joe seems to have everything he wants, but can money really buy happiness? While his toilet roll tycoon dad spends, spends, spends on fast cars, 100-inch TVs and lavish gifts for his new girlfriend, Sapphire Diamond, Joe is left to fend for himself in the unforgiving world of the school playground.

Luckily, Joe’s new best friend Bob is on hand to help him navigate the assault course of school bullies and dangerously inedible canteen food. But when the impossibly pretty new girl Lauren seems to take a shine to Joe, things look set to get a whole lot more complicated.

Lem Knights as Bob in Billionaire Boy the Musical. Photo by Manuel Harlan.

Happily, Jon Brittain’s stage adaptation works well and adding in a musical score only seems to ‘enrich’ the tale even more thanks to Miranda Cooper and Nick Coler who have penned a slew of smash hit tracks for the likes of Sugababes, Girls Aloud, Alesha Dixon, Kylie Minogue and Gabriella Cilmi, many played by guitar-toting pupils.

Ryan Heenan ably leads the way as Joe Spud. All the characters are true to the original Walliams creations, with particularly hilarious versions of the gross dinner lady Mrs Trafe played by Dean Nolan (who also plays Joe’s dad Len) and money-grabbing Sapphire played by Avita Jay who also plays the book series’ staple character, Raj the shopkeeper.

The script and score contain plenty of side-splitting one-liners, most memorable including Mrs Trafe’s introduction to school dinners and the house party at Joe’s million dollar mansion.

Plus, there’s a splattering of zesty topical gags about Elon Musk and Jacob Rees-Mogg.

The set and on-stage musicians, help round off a slick and pacey show, engaging all the family from curtain up to curtain down.

But the moral of this particular story is money can’t buy you happiness. I would venture to suggest that for the small price of a ticket for this show, actually it can.

Billionaire Boy: The Musical plays at The Belgrade Theatre until Saturday (February 23rd).

Tickets are available to book now by calling the box office on 024 7655 3055, or visiting

Review by Jo and Brian Johnson on behalf of ChalmersNewsPR

For news of Walliams’ next book adapted to musical theatre visit. . .