Good news from Oakman Inns

Good news from Oakman Inns

ALTHOUGH the Government’s Eat Out to Help Out scheme ends tomorrow, Bank Holiday Monday, Oakman Inns, the pub group which operates two pubs in Warwickshire – The Globe in Warwick, and The Four Alls in Welford-on-Avon and The Beech House in Solihull, West Midlands) has chosen to continue the scheme through the whole of September.

Oakman Inns, which manages 28 family-friendly pubs and restaurants across the Midlands and Home Counties, saw visitor numbers in line with industry figures. According to the company’s CEO, Dermot King, the scheme appears to have achieved its aim of bringing back those customers who were hesitant about eating out. He said: “According to one recent survey, more than half said that the experience made them feel more confident about going out in the near future, and most of the rest (45%) said their confidence was unaffected.”

The Globe, Warwick, Eat Out To Help Out Scheme
The Globe, Warwick

With table-only service, their restaurants were often fully booked during the first two weeks, with many of the customers making their first visit to an Oakman Inn.

However, keen to maintain this momentum, Oakman Inns has now taken the decision to continue to offer 50% off (up to a maximum of £10 per person) all food and soft drinks consumed on the premises on Mondays, Tuesdays and Wednesdays – including breakfast, brunch, lunch and dinner.

“There is no doubt that the Eat Out to Help Out scheme has been a major factor in helping us get back on our feet after several months without any revenue at all,” said Dermot King.

The Four Alls, Welford, Oakman Inns, Eat Out To Help Out
The Four Alls in Welford-on-Avon

Oakman Inns has not only brought back from furlough their near 1,000-strong workforce, but has even created 105 further jobs, in order to meet the new compliance requirements.

However, King is still urging caution and looking for further support from Chancellor Rishi Sunak.

King explained: “It has been a very encouraging start, but the road to recovery is going to be a very long one and it is going to take much more than a few months of offers to get the hospitality sector back to where it was before lockdown,” he said.

“We urgently need a review of the fiscal disparity between supermarkets and the hospitality sector with a specific focus on VAT. We would like to see 5% VAT extended past the January deadline but extended to include all processed foods, such as ready meals, sandwiches, pasties etc – money which could be pumped straight back into healthier school meals, giving every kid a chance to have a better start in life.”

The Beech House, Solihull, Oakman Inns, Eat Out to Help Out Scheme
The Beech House, Solihull

He continued: “We also need to have a root and branch examination of the entire business rates system which provides a fairer and more coherent tax, and we would further urge the Chancellor to scrap employers’ National Insurance contributions on all employees who earn under £20,000.

“This would help create jobs at a time when people all over the country are losing theirs. The current system effectively taxes job creation and we must bring an end to that.”

The pub group announced last week that it has been recognised for a second time in this year’s Princess Royal Training Awards for their outstanding staff training and development programmes.

I chose to spend the first evening of the pubs re-opening after lockdown at The Globe. You can see how I got on here.

Makers to ‘pop up’ at theatre’s outdoor market

Makers to ‘pop up’ at theatre’s outdoor market

ALL things bright and beautiful are arriving in Coventry with the Belgrade Theatre’s first Outdoor Makers’ Market from 11am-4pm on Saturday 29 August.

Organised by Craft On, the Belgrade’s resident needlecraft for wellbeing group, the event will see 16 local artists and makers assemble to sell their wares outside the theatre in Belgrade Square.

Pop-up craft shop, Belgrade Theatre, Coventry

A wide range of handmade items will be available to browse and purchase, including greetings cards, wall plaques, paintings, jewellery, dolls, dreamcatchers, felt and fused glass ornaments, knitted baby clothes and accessories, and more.

The event is child-friendly and free to attend. Throughout the day, the Belgrade café bar will also be open and serving a selection of snacks and drinks which you can enjoy either outdoors or inside the theatre’s spacious foyers.

A wet-weather contingency plan has also been putting place, allowing the market to take place inside the building while maintaining social distancing, should it be unable to go ahead outside as planned.

Pop-up craft shop, Belgrade Theatre, Coventry

Craft On group leader Niki Doughty Lee, who is managing bookings for the pop-up shops as well as the Makers’ Market, said: “We’re grateful to the Belgrade Theatre for all they’ve done to accommodate our weekly craft sessions and to support and promote our work, so we’re delighted to be able to help them in return as COVID restrictions start to lift. We hope events like this will send a clear message that the theatre is now open and accessible to the community, even if shows are still unable to go ahead.

“I set up Craft On with the aim of reducing isolation and promoting mental wellbeing in Coventry – something which has never been more important than it is now that we are beginning to emerge from lockdown. Theatres like the Belgrade play a vital role in holding the community together, so we want to do everything we can to help keep them going through this difficult period and ensure their work can continue in the future.”

The Outdoor Makers’ Market will take place in Belgrade Square from 11am-4pm on Saturday 29 August. For any enquiries, email

Entries open for Coventry & Warwickshire Foodie Awards 2021

Entries open for Coventry & Warwickshire Foodie Awards 2021

ENTRIES are open for a brand new food awards that will celebrate the very best of the food and drink scene in Coventry and Warwickshire.

The inaugural Foodie Awards 2021, in partnership with Visit Coventry, launched in July and will recognise businesses across the sector, from artisan producers to chefs, street food traders, restaurants and bars.

Three special awards will also recognise businesses and individuals who went above and beyond during the coronavirus pandemic – including a COVID-19 Resilience Award sponsored by Visit Coventry and The Godiva Award, sponsored by Coventry BID.

Esteemed butcher Aubrey Allen is also sponsoring the awards, with Managing Director Russell Allen set to join the panel of judges.

Foodie Awards, Coventry & Warwickshire, Visit Coventry, Coventry BID, Talk Business UK

Entries for the awards, which will culminate in a ceremony in spring 2021 following a finalists’ night on January 25th at Coventry’s new Telegraph Hotel, officially opened on Friday, August 7 and businesses across Warwickshire and Coventry are urged to get involved.

Categories include best artisan food and drink producers, best farm shop, best independent food and drink retailer, best newcomer, best street food trader and best chef or cook of the year, as well as best food/drink experience.

The categories will be judged by a mixture of respected figures in the local food and drink scene, as well as public votes, with the awards focused on quality, passion, great taste and personality across Coventry & Warwickshire.

Foodie Awards Founder Jonathan Smith, of Talk Business UK, said: ”Since we launched the Foodie Awards last month, we’ve had an amazing response from people across the county who agree that it’s time to really shout about the fabulous food and drink scene we have in Coventry & Warwickshire.

“This sector in particular has had a tough time this year and the Foodie Awards are aimed to give a much-needed boost for all the producers, makers, traders, restaurants, cafes and chefs who have worked so hard and celebrate the vibrant, quality scene that they help to create.

“We’ve created a range of categories that will allow anyone to enter, whether they’re an artisan gin producer, a pop-up restaurant founder or someone who goes the extra mile to champion food and drink in Coventry & Warwickshire. No business is too big or small and we can’t wait to see some of the entries.

“We’ve got lots planned that will make the Foodie Awards really stand out from the crowd and can’t wait to share it.”

Emma Schoolar, Trussell Trust, Foodie Awards, Coventry & Warwickshire, Visit Coventry, Coventry BID, foodbanks
Emma Schoolar, Area Manager for the Trussell Trust

The Foodie Awards will be raising money for The Trussell Trust network of eight food banks in Coventry and Warwickshire.

Emma Schoolar, Area Manager for the Trussell Trust, said: “Having the support of the Foodie Awards will make such a difference to food banks in our network across Coventry and Warwickshire.

“As the impact of coronavirus continues to ripple out across our communities, we’re expecting more people to be forced to a food bank.

“But it doesn’t have to be like this. This can change. As a country, we can make changes which would protect people from being swept into poverty.

“This support will help food banks to get emergency help to people safely, while we work together towards a future where everyone has enough money for essentials. Thank you so much.”

The awards’ headline sponsor is Visit Coventry, with other sponsorship packages still available. Sponsorship comes with a host of benefits and there are also opportunities for businesses to get involved on a partnership basis. For more information contact

A full list of awards categories is below – for more details descriptions and criteria please visit the website at

  • Farm Shop
  • Artisan Drink Producer
  • Artisan Food Producer
  • Newcomer (established within 18 months of launch of awards)
  • Independent Food/Drink Retailer
  • Pub or Bar of the Year
  • Restaurant of the Year
  • Chef or Cook of the Year – Sponsored by Aubrey Allen
  • Best Food/Drink Experience
  • Street Food Trader of the Year
  • Café/Coffee Shop of the Year
  • Food Champion (People’s award) – Sponsored by The Courier – regional newspapers
  • COVID-19 Resilience Award – in partnership with Visit Coventry
  • Godiva Award (exclusive to Coventry) – Sponsored by Coventry BID
Good option for entertaining the family in post-pandemic school holidays

Good option for entertaining the family in post-pandemic school holidays

AS we’re still getting to grips with the realities of a post-pandemic lifestyle – while the rest of the school holidays span ahead of us – there are now fewer ways that we’re comfortable in spending our family time.

So when Go Ape in Coventry recently reopened after lockdown it presented a tempting option in our ‘neck of the woods.’

Go Ape, Coombe Abbey Country Park, COVID-19, safety measures, Coventry

Set in 500 acres of historic woodlands at Coombe Abbey Country Park, there is no shortage of excitement – but also with a choice of courses for different thrill levels.

My teenage sons and three friends took on the Tree Top Challenge which is open to all experience levels (over 1.4 metres). But this doesn’t mean it’s a pushover for the more confident adventurers as there’s a mix of crossings cleverly designed to test everyone’s limits.

If you’re supervising someone younger, you’re not restricted to following in all their footsteps as the crossings do split off in various places offering different challenge levels while reuniting at the other end.

Go Ape, Coombe Abbey Country Park, COVID-19, safety measures, Coventry

And, despite traversing a few of Go Ape’s 35 courses over the years, the boys were delighted by Coombe’s new elements, such as a dual Tarzan swing and the exclusive Alpine zip-to-zip – a series of zip wires. Exclusive to Coventry, this feature soon has you swinging through trees with abandon, culminating in a 200m double zip course landing. Plummet – a vertical drop from a 12-metre-high platform is currently suspended but, from previous experience, I can report, is particularly exhilarating.


The zip to zip provides a thrilling finale to a course that, in my opinion, helps Coombe stand out from the others we’ve experienced.

For the younger ‘apes’ there is also The Tree Top Adventure (for all ages over 1 metre) and Tree Top Adventure + (for six plus and over 1.2 metres).

Compared to our first visit just after it opened last spring, the woodland area has matured and now and, more than ever, participants feel like they’re truly swinging in the trees.

But, in a new climate of cautiousness that’s been forced upon us, did we feel reassured by Go Ape’s COVID safety measures?

The equipment is regularly cleaned, there’s a hand sanitisation station, screens at the booking kiosk and distancing is encouraged between groups on the course. Instructors also wear visors.

Even the pens we borrow to sign the waiver form are deposited back into a separate container for wiping down once we’re finished.

But it’s the peace of mind of the open air and sensible, yet unobtrusive, safety measures that left us feeling comfortable on the day.

What better time than post lockdown to appreciate the freedom of the great outdoors – and from what better vantage point than the canopies of beautiful Coombe Abbey Country Park.

So swing on by, you won’t regret it.

Further details at:

All aboard for a touch of sophistication

All aboard for a touch of sophistication

ONE of the world’s most luxurious trains will be setting out from Coventry and Birmingham in August – but passengers had better look smart if they want to catch it.

For jeans and trainers are frowned upon aboard the ornately-decorated, 1930s-style Pullman carriages of the Northern Belle. – Especially as one of them, named Duart after the ancient home of the Maclean clan in Scotland, used to form part of the Queen’s Royal Train.

Northern Belle, steam train, afternoon tea

Businessmen David Pitts, who bought the train three years ago from the iconic Venice-Simplon Orient Express group, laughed: “This is a very special train. We transport passengers back to the golden days of rail travel. So we do like them to dress up for the occasion.”

Liveried stewards will welcome passengers on board over a red carpet on Saturday August 15th.

Northern Belle, steam train, afternoon tea

Then they will be served a Classic Afternoon Tea of sandwiches, cakes, pastries and scones during the five-hour journey through the countryside.

Mr Pitts said: “We like to think there is something quintessentially British about afternoon tea. And what better way of enjoying it than travelling in style on a train from a bygone era?”

Strolling musicians will entertain passengers during the trip and a table conjuror will add a touch of magic to the day.

The train will leave Birmingham at 11am and pick up passengers at Coventry at 11.30 on August 15th.

It is scheduled to arrive back in Birmingham at 4pm and Coventry at 4.30pm. The fare is £210. For further details of this and other planned excursions, COVID-pending, see or phone 01270 899681.