Going that extra mile for Molly Olly’s

Going that extra mile for Molly Olly’s

A BRIDGEND surgeon is hoping to be a tower of strength as he gears up for a 500-mile charity cycle ride between famous landmarks in Paris and Blackpool this weekend.

Dr Richard Johnson is among a group of five fundraisers cycling between the Eiffel Tower and Blackpool Tower from June 30th.

Molly Olly's Wishes
Dr Richard Johnson

He’ll be joined by his brother Michael – who organised the trip to coincide with his 50th birthday – and friends Michael Brace from Bridgend; Richard Onions, from Portsmouth and Phil Rotheram and Barry Young, from Chesterfield.

They will make overnight stops during the six-day challenge in Horsham, Aylesbury, Atherstone and Macclesfield before arriving in Blackpool.

It’s a third cycling challenge for Richard, 54, who has previously tackled Arch to Arc (Marble Arch to The Arc de Triomph) and six countries in three days.

He’ll be raising money for Warwickshire charity Molly Olly’s Wishes, which was established in 2011 following the death of Rachel and Tim Ollerenshaw’s eight-year-old daughter Molly from a rare kidney cancer.

It works to support children with terminal or life-limiting illnesses and their families and help with their emotional wellbeing, grants wishes and donates therapeutic toys and books to both children directly and to hospitals throughout the UK.

Mascot of the charity is a therapeutic toy lion called Olly The Brave who has his own Hickman line and a detachable mane which helps to explain and normalise the effects of chemotherapy. These form part of an Olly the Brave pack that has now been handed out to 40 hospitals across the UK along with a book from its exclusive Olly The Brave series.

Molly aged eight.

The charity, which has raised more than £2m, last year funded the first Molly Olly consultant in paediatric palliative medicine at Birmingham Children’s Hospital.

Richard, who is the Clinical Director and Senior Surgeon at the Princess of Wales Hospital in Bridgend, met Molly’s dad Tim through their association with the International Socca Federation – the industry-leading organiser of international small-sided football competitions.

He said: “My brother organises a riding challenge every two years and, for his 50th year we thought we should do something different. Originally we were finishing in Paris, but felt for this we should finish in our home town and then have a birthday party  – despite the fact people say we are cycling uphill to Blackpool! I am very proud to be raising money for such an important charity.

“To prepare I try to go out most weekends, Saturday and Sunday first thing before the roads get busy. There are plenty of mountains nearby to develop some stamina. I am excited and nervous at the same time about the prospect of this ride.”

Tim Ollerenshaw is joining the group for one leg of the trip, said: “What Richard is doing is a wonderful thing and all the team at Molly Olly’s are immensely grateful. Donations received enable us to support the lives of children with life threatening illnesses and their families.

“It is a magnificent example of the power of sport to bring everyone together. Richard and I met through 6 a side football and that sense of community is a key thing in all sport – but it seems particularly so in small sided football.”

Donations can be made here: https://uk.virginmoneygiving.com/RichardJohnson28

Learn more about the charity at www.mollyolly.co.uk



Get stuck in to some real adventure

Get stuck in to some real adventure

WELCOME to the first in a series of regular reviews of some of the many activities on offer at Adventure Sports outdoor activity centre in Warwick.

Look out for more blogs over the coming weeks and months – as well as the chance to win a £50 voucher to spend on an activity of your choice.

But first up, Quad Trekking. . .

Quad trekking, Adventure Sports, Warwick
Jon and Daniel Chalmers are ready for the off.


WHEN it comes to really getting stuck into an activity, the team at Adventure Sports in Warwick don’t want you to hold back.

And this has never been truer than with their Quad Trekking sessions.

Many of us have done a bit of quad bike riding before and think we know what we’re taking on. But I can honestly say, until you’ve tried quad trekking Adventure Sports style, you haven’t experienced the true exhilaration the activity can offer.

You have the opportunity to get behind the wheel of a powerful all-terrain quad bike and, after a brief spell of safety training and assessment, you’re led through 100 acres of challenging countryside, incorporating slopes, mud, grassland and picturesque woodland.

The quads are very easy to get the hang of, with no clutch to worry about – you just press a button – and a finger-operated lever brake as well as controllable high-grip off-road tyres! This is actually a more comfortable ride than one tends to expect.

Not that it’s about comfort. This activity is very much about encouraging the rider to step outside their comfort zone – and before we know it, we’re doing just that.

The qualified instructor is quickly able to judge the skill level of his group before proceeding to a suitably challenging route which includes dense woodland, harsh terrain, water and mud. . . on this day there was lots of mud!

Our session coincided with the climax of an extremely wet week of weather, setting the stage for, what some might say, is perfect quad trekking terrain. It certainly added to the fun – although it’s wise to, as they say, dress for the occasion! There are no overalls!

Adventure Sports, Warwick, Quad trekking
The participants receive their briefing.

If you put yourselves in the hands of the friendly and capable instructor, you won’t go far wrong – although there were a couple of hairy moments when the bike seemed to be controlling driver rather than the other way around! All part of the adventure, we’re told. And everyone came back in one piece – and sporting broad smiles.

It’s a maximum of six trekkers per session so there’s never any danger of evading the gaze of the instructor’s watchful eye. Trekkers feel safe at all times while also being encouraged to push their own personal limits.

The activity is suitable for 16 plus, but for no other reason than their legs need to reach the pedals – and upper body strength to keep the vehicle under some modicum of control, is also important.


This is for almost everyone who can confidently steer, brake, change gear and accelerate using the controls. They must also be able to transfer their body weight around the bike to safely navigate sloped ground. It especially hits the spot for thrill-seekers who want the challenge of an adrenalin-pumping authentic quad biking experience.


It represents excellent value at £50 per person per hour-long session.







Win four tickets to see Dragon Slayer at Warwick Castle

Win four tickets to see Dragon Slayer at Warwick Castle

SLAY the summer holidays by winning tickets for you and three guests to Warwick Castle’s fiery Dragon Slayer show.

Dragon Slayer, Warwick Castle

After a sell-out season in 2018, Midlands legend Guy of Warwick returns to battle mythical beasts and marvellous creatures in a series of 14 exhilarating twilight performances starting on Wednesday, 7th August.

And Warwick Castle have teamed up with Chalmers News PR to offer one lucky winner the chance to be there as the action unfolds.

This spectacular must-see show returns with equestrian stunts, fire-jousting and live action as the story of Guy battling to prove himself worthy of the heart of Felice, the daughter of the Earl of Warwick, unfolds after dark within the Castle grounds.

This year’s show also includes an extended finale featuring extra pyrotechnics and light projections, as Guy battles the fierce dragon in the Castle’s historic courtyard.

The prize includes four tickets to see Dragon Slayer on a date of your choice.

Dragon Slayer, Warwick Castle

For those who aren’t lucky enough to win, tickets are available to purchase online with Show-Only tickets starting from £20 per person. Dining upgrades are available with a choice of hog roast or three-course medieval banquet.

Find out more at www.warwick-castle.com/dragon-slayer

Terms and conditions:

The prize of four tickets are for Dragon Slayer at Warwick Castle and include evening show only (no dining packages or day visits). Gates open at different times depending on show date.
Prize may be taken on any of the 14 performance dates, subject to availability.
Prize is non-transferable and cannot be exchanged for cash or refunded. Four tickets may be used by adults or children. For more information on show dates and timings, please visit


Pub classics with a twist (Review)

Pub classics with a twist (Review)

IF you don’t live in the immediate area, chances are you may not be familiar with The Chequers Inn in Ettington near Stratford-upon-Avon.

If you are, you may not be aware of the recent changes its undergone following an extensive refurbishment.

The Chequers Inn, Ettington

Its popularity is already demonstrated by its listing in The Good Pub Guide – but the new makeover and menu have arrived to put it firmly on the map for even more of us who appreciate good food done well – and are prepared to venture out to neighbouring districts to get it.

A fresh and modern interior now greets visitors to the 18th– century pub, which has also seen an extension to its kitchen.

Introduced with it is an exciting new menu. Described as ‘pub classics with a twist’ – using fresh locally-sourced ingredients – the results are simply mouthwatering.

My starter of Pork and Chorizo Scotch Egg, below, was one of the tastiest dishes I’ve enjoyed for some time (and I eat out a lot!) My husband’s verdict on his garlic, mushrooms on parmesan toast from the Specials Menu, was not dissimilar. Simple ingredients used well.

The Chequers Inn, Ettington

My Braised Lamb Shoulder (served with Spring Greens, Minted Crushed Potatoes and Red Wine Jus) was no exception. It was deliciously tender – too tasty not to finish despite the sizeable portion.

And hubby’s Soya and Honey-glazed Chicken Supreme (with Sauteed Spinach and Potato Rosti and Lemongrass and Spring Onion Cream) was devoured – and complimented on (and his sophisticated palate can normally be replied upon to find fault with something on his plate.)

They say less is more (whomever ‘they’ are!) and this could certainly be true where the desserts menu is concerned. Having fewer choices wasn’t an issue due to the tempting selection on offer. The Dark Chocolate and Orange Tart with Pistachio Ice Cream, below, definitely proved a winner at our table. A good-sized portion too for those with the constitution to appreciate it after two previous hearty platefuls.The Chequers Inn, Ettington

My husband’s cheese board was also plentiful – but got polished off in double quick time and was an appetising finale to the feast.

There’s also a range of ever-changing sharing platters and seasonal plates, Sunday roast and a children’s menu, including pizza, burger and fish and chips.

A vast wine and beer list, which includes the Chequers own pale ale, and a cocktail list boasting a plethora of classic drinks, from Kir Royale’s and Aperol Spritz’s to Caipirinhas and Negronis, completes the offer.

The new menu nods to Asian influences, with dishes such as Masala Chickpea Chaat with Toasted Pitta Bread and Chicken Curry. But overall, the vision of simple rustic dishes bursting with flavour, is a triumph for proprietors Paul and Aman Bhandal.

The Chequers Inn, Ettington

They said: “We are extremely excited to welcome customers back to the Chequers Inn. We hoped to give the pub a new lease of life, but were very aware of not losing the charm which made The Chequers Inn the warm, welcoming place it was before. We hope to provide the full experience for customers – great service, great food and a great atmosphere -and hope that they enjoy the new décor and menu as much as we did creating it.”

It’s certainly a thumbs up from me – and a welcome new addition to our own list of now familiar pub favourites.

For more information about The Chequers Inn visit: www.the-chequers-ettington.co.uk

‘Unique’ recipe for success

‘Unique’ recipe for success

IT’S been a few months now since I met Martin and Lorraine at Moores of Warwick Gin Distillery.

In that time I’ve learned a lot about their business and been left feeling inspired by their personal story. You see, for those who haven’t thus far seen any of the publicity (where have you been?!) the couple are living their personal dream. But it’s a dream that’s emerged from a nightmare – because Martin has stage 4 cancer.

Moores of Warwick, Lorraine Moore, Martin Moore

In 2011, after spotting a mole on his back, Martin, now 59, was diagnosed with a malignant melanoma. Despite months of surgery, four years later they received the news they had most dreaded – the cancer had spread to the lymph nodes. After Martin being given just months to live, the couple took the decision to both quit the rat race and pursue their joint dream of starting a business together.

He’s now on a trial course of immunotherapy treatment which has shown signs of shrinking the tumour. And, as far as they are concerned, it is business as usual. Indeed, plans for expanding their drinks offering are already in the pipeline. So watch this space.

Moores of Warwick Gin Distillery, Lorraine moore, Martin Moore
Amanda, Denise, Lindsey and Jo join Lorraine and Martin Moore for the gin school.

The most recent of my visits to see Martin and Lorraine – on World Gin Day no less – was in a more informal capacity. I thought it was about time I immersed myself into their world and learn what all the fuss was about – so signed myself up for the gin school. – All in the name of research of course!

But who to accompany me? It’s fair to say, volunteers were not slow in forming an orderly line! (Never seen so many forty-somethings been quite so keen to get back to the classroom!)

So my three gal pals and I put ourselves in the capable hands of the Moores and opened our minds and our hearts to the heady world of gin making.

The three-hour session started in the best possible manner – with a Moores G&T at the bar, served with our choice of tonic and fruit garnish from their menu.

We were quickly ‘in the mood’ but didn’t feel rushed and were afforded plenty of time to savour our drinks and meet our hosts before being ushered into the first formal part of the afternoon.

We were treated to a short presentation on the history of gin as well as the Moores’ own story. They are keen to introduce us to Nellie – the name they’ve given to their 100-litre still as a nod to Martin’s cancer – the elephant in the room.

This earnest introduction to our friendly hosts broke the ice nicely (if the gin hadn’t already done that) and settled us gently in to the task ahead.

Then Martin guided us through our instructions for the session and then let us loose on the equipment. (Some might say that was brave!)

Firstly we set about the botanicals shelves like sugar-starved children running amok in a pick and mix shop. For me, arriving at the right recipe for my gin was the biggest challenge. The must-have ingredients are singled out to us (juniper being one). But then which other herbs and spices do I choose? How many do I choose? How much of each do I use? Then the ingredients had to be carefully weighed out. These were fine margins and we’d already be warned that some of the botanicals pack a more powerful punch than others.

Moores of Warwick Gin Distillery, Lorraine moore, Martin Moore
Keeping a note of our ingredients and measurements.

As a self-confessed failed cook (my family will concur!), too many nervous doubts were creeping in. This was serious business I had concluded – and was determined not to be the first student to turn out an undrinkable gin!

But luckily I’m also a hopeless perfectionist – and this ‘special’ blend, crafted painstakingly with my gin partner Lindsey, was going to be at very least, I was assured, palatable.

I needn’t have worried. With Martin’s patience and guiding hand the blending processes were painless and I quickly got into my stride, chucking in ingredients like a woman possessed.

In actual fact, the beauty of this is its simplicity. No need to get weighed down with exacting measurements and award-standard recipes. This experience is very much about designing a drink to your own tastes and preferences. Most of all, it’s about having fun. But for all the advice and instinct poured into your recipe, it’s the ultimate taste test at the climax to this experiment that offers the moment of magic.

It’s like the best bits of cooking and chemistry lessons combined. (And this comes from someone who is/was dire at both.) Throw it all in and let the mini still do its work.

Some careful temperature control – again under Martin’s watchful eye – and the first drops of our infused liquid creation eventually emerge from the pipe. At this stage we’re encouraged to sample a drop from our finger – but only a drop as this is undiluted 90%-proof alcohol. It’s fair to say that at this stage in the process, it tasted disgusting. This didn’t bode well, I reasoned.

Moores of Warwick Gin Distillery, Lorraine moore, Martin Moore

But then what’s termed the ‘heads’ and ‘tails’ of the gin are discarded in favour of preserving the ‘hearts’ for bottling. And so comes time to add the distilled water to make it, well frankly, fit for consumption. The more water, the lower the alcohol volume. Advised levels for gin are around the 45% mark, but you’re invited to keep testing as you keep adding the water and achieiving the desired taste. Interesting how moreish the drink has now become. Maybe I could make a mean gin after all!

Take-home bottles are filled to the brim with our concoction and we add our own labels, even coming up with a name. Apparently a record of our recipes are filed away should we ever want to put in a repeat order. (Can’t see that one flying off the shelves!)

For me the pinnacle of this experience is in tasting our random recipe for the first time. I think if I did it again I would be more likely to try a different recipe altogether. But then I can also quite appreciate why those who hit on a winner would want more of the same.

Throughout our Moores gin glasses are kept topped up, plus some well-timed nibbles are introduced later on to satisfy those mid-afternoon munchies.

Moores of Warwick Gin Distillery, Lorraine moore, Martin Moore

I’m not convinced Amanda Chalmers’ June-iper Gin (do you see what I did there?) will be giving the Moores blend a run for its money  – but that’s not the point. My friends and I were unanimous in our enthusiasm – we had enjoyed the most interesting, entertaining and unique experience – and one we were keen to repeat.

More information on the Moores of Warwick gin schools at: https://mooresofwarwick.com/bookavisit-2/