New premises unlocks latest chapter for Warwick children’s charity

New premises unlocks latest chapter for Warwick children’s charity

WHEN Rachel Ollerenshaw collected the keys for an office building in Swan Street, Warwick, it unlocked a whole new chapter for her charity.

The premises, the first dedicated HQ for Molly Olly’s Wishes, has opened its doors just weeks before Rachel’s late daughter – and inspiration behind the charity – would have turned 18.

Molly Olly's Wishes, new premises, Rachel Ollerenshaw
Rachel Ollerenshaw outside the charity’s new premises

Molly died in June 2011 after a five-year battle with a rare kidney cancer. And what followed, in Molly’s memory, has resulted in support for thousands of children around the country with terminal or life-limiting illnesses.

Rachel and husband Tim, from Hatton Park, spent a large part of those five years in and out of hospital and soon realised that many of the patients they met did not benefit from the emotional or financial support that they had received for Molly and her siblings.

Driven by this – and a determination to keep Molly’s legacy alive -Molly Olly’s Wishes was officially born in September 2011.

Having gained its charity status in 2012, the charity has so far raised more than £2.5m and helped more than 15,000 children from new-born to age 18 by granting individual wishes.

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 more than 70 hospitals and community teams, along with a book from the charity’s exclusive Olly The Brave series.

Molly Olly’s Wishes has signed an initial two-year lease on the new office space, thanks to the support by Oakland International, which has a site in Redditch. The charity has also been helped with legal advice from Warwick solicitors Moore & Tibbetts.

Rachel Ollerenshaw said: “It’s a really big moment for the charity to get this space. The focus has always been on keeping costs to a minimum to ensure  that, as much money as possible goes to the children we help. As we’ve grown as a charity it’s been harder to work from home and have space for the volunteers, so getting an office has been vital to the long term strategy and vision of the charity.

“Warwick is a hugely significant town for us. It is our local town and where many retailers and people know us and to have a presence in the town is important. Because we have been based at my house and haven’t had a big sign outside a lot of people don’t know we exist, so to get that high street presence will help awareness.”

And Rachel is confident Molly would also approve.

Molly aged eight.

“I think that Molly would like it. For me the space has a heart. Having worked at home for so long and the charity being so personal, having a space that felt that it was professional but wasn’t too corporate was important.

“That’s why I love Warwick and the new office, because it feels personal and friendly and it has that heart to it.”

It comes at a crucial time for the small charity which, like many others, is feeling the impact of COVID-19. It is forecast more than £250,000 in proceeds may be lost to their coffers with fundraising events wiped from the calendar, including the charity’s biggest event of the year, the Molly Olly Ball, in November.

Rachel said: “Fundraising prior to lockdown had been on track and the reserves that the charity had has enabled us to continue our work, but this is not sustainable long term.”

“The past six months has seen donations drop by over 40%, a trend which, if it continues, will see a significant reduction in the number of wishes we can provide to children with life threatening illnesses. The ball alone would have generated around £60,000 for us.

“For the events that we plan now we have to be prepared for things changing very quickly so have to think carefully about how we organise them. We are looking at fundraising that people can do individually where we haven’t got huge outlays such as golf days or cycling events or online raffles.

“What would really help us is if people would sign up to a monthly donation. If the people who usually come to our events and spend £85 on ball tickets, for instance, could maybe commit to spending £5 or more a month and donate regularly, that would make a huge difference to us.”

Lockdown has also added immense emotional and financial pressure on many of the families being supported by Molly Olly’s which, despite diminishing funds, is working hard to continue granting wishes – although the nature of the requests has shifted from days out and experiences to gifts and equipment for bedrooms and gardens.

Rachel said: “But we have also worked with families where both parents have been made redundant a lot of the requests we receive are for necessities. For those struggling financially wishes can be for items such as a bed for sick child or supermarket vouchers to help buy food.”

“The families are scared and anxious and it has put more pressure on them and the health professionals and a lot of the organisations we work with have had to work virtually so we’ve seen big changes in how our families are supported.”

Molly Olly's Wishes, new premises, Rachel Ollerenshaw

The new premises will help futureproof the work of the Molly Olly’s team as they continue to navigate their way through a climate of huge uncertainty and ever-changing COVID legislation.

Rachel said: “We talked about doing this before the virus was even heard of. It was a worry with what has happened but actually it’s proven to be really important that we had office space which has given us an opportunity and a way forward so we can work safely.

“The team really like it and it’s great for them to have space to work properly rather than being cramped on my kitchen table or squeezed into my office at home. This way they can work more smartly and efficiently,” she said.

“This space makes us more accessible to people who can knock the door and come in and ask us what we do and that’s really important. People were probably afraid to knock on my front door at home.”

As Rachel does her best to plan the unknown road ahead, there is no time to really take stock and celebrate the latest milestone.

“This is a real milestone but it’s a journey we’ve all done together” she said. “If ever you have any moments of doubt, you then receive a phone call and you know why you’re here and it takes you right back to where we were and why it all started. Yes, we’re proud but the key thing is we want to carry on doing it and continue to grow and help as many families as possible.”

Support can be in many forms and more information about the charity’s work and how you can help is available by contacting Rachel Ollerenshaw at: rachel@mollyolly.co.uk or on 01926 698735.

Donations can also be made direct via the website at: https://www.mollyolly.co.uk/learn-about-donating/

One of nation’s top chefs to guest judge The Foodies

One of nation’s top chefs to guest judge The Foodies

ENTRANTS in the brand new Foodie Awards for Coventry & Warwickshire will be showing off their talents to one of the nation’s top chefs as part of the judging process.

Glynn Purnell, who is set to open a restaurant in the heart of Coventry in 2021, will be a guest judge in the brand new food and drink awards programme alongside several other top names in the industry.

The inaugural Foodie Awards 2021, in partnership with Visit Coventry, will recognise an array of food and drink businesses from producers to chefs, street food traders, restaurants and bars.

Glyn Purnell, Coventry and Warwickshire Foodie Awards
Glyn Purnell

Entries are already pouring in 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.

They will be judged by a mixture of esteemed judges and public votes, with Glynn Purnell appearing as a guest judge alongside his former employer Andreas Antona, owner of The Cross in Kenilworth, and Russell Allen, managing director of Aubrey Allen.

The chef, who regularly appears on Saturday Kitchen, said: “Despite what some people might think, Coventry and Warwickshire is an area packed with great food and drink – hence my plan to open a restaurant here next year. It’s been a tough year for all of us in hospitality but these awards will help boost local businesses and recognise some of the great talent in the area. I’m looking forward to being involved.”

Categories for the awards 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.

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

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

Andreas Antona, chef owner of The Cross at Kenilworth and Simpsons in Edgbaston – both of which hold Michelin stars – will also be a guest judge.

Andreas Antona, Coventry and Warwickshire Foodie Awards, Visit Coventry, Talk Business UK, Coventry BID, Eat With Ellen
Andreas Antona

Antona, who worked as a chef with some of the biggest names in the chef world before leaving the kitchen to focus on life as a restaurateur, is a passionate supporter of training and education and founded the Bocuse d’Or UK Academy, an organisation dedicated to supporting British chefs as they prepare for the Bocuse d’Or – the world’s largest and most prestigious cooking contest. Next month he will launch Antona at Home, a nationwide meal and food delivery service with a passion for produce at its heart.

“I’m a big believer in recognising excellence and helping encourage people strive to be the best,” he said. “Being part of an awards that champions the fantastic food and drink we have across the county is great and I look forward to seeing some of the talent we have in Coventry and Warwickshire.”

He will be joined by fellow judge Russell Allen, Managing Director of award-winning butcher Aubrey Allen, which is also sponsoring the awards.

“The Foodie Awards are a fabulous way to help recognise a sector that has had a tough year and is still working hard to recover from lockdown,” he added. “At Aubrey Allen we’re incredibly proud of our local area and always want to help support our fellow businesses, which is exactly what this does.”

Also on the judging panel will be Chris Hardy AKA ‘The Fat Foodie’ – a multi award-winning influencer and street food expert and fellow influencer Katie Matthews AKA ‘The Hangry Blonde’.

Chris said: “Being on board with something like this is great. I started my accounts because I wanted to shout about the small food and drink businesses who never get seen or heard among the big boys, and it’s great to see these awards doing the same thing. Bring it on.”

Foodie Awards 2021, Coventry BID, Visit Coventry, Trish Willetts, Eat With Ellen, Talk Business UK, Jonathan Smith, Councillor Jim O’Boyle

For more information on how to enter or to support the awards, visit https://foodieawards.co.uk

The full list of awards categories:

  • 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
Enjoying the lap of luxury at Winchcombe Farm (Review)

Enjoying the lap of luxury at Winchcombe Farm (Review)

THE phrase five-star luxury is much overused when it comes to holiday accommodation. But never have I before considered it to be an inadequate description for somewhere I’ve stayed . . .until now.

The newest lodge at Winchcombe Farm Holidays in Upper Tysoe, is quite simply, luxury on another level.

Winchcombe Farm Holidays, Ben's Burrow, Upper Tysoe, glamping retreat, staycation
Photos by Dave Fawbert Photography.

As the paint was literally drying on their newest lodge, I was lucky enough to be among the first to experience the most ambitious project yet, Ben’s Burrow which sleeps up to nine.

Set on two storeys, both indoor and outdoor space is in abundance with a design that makes the very most of its idyllic environment. And we were spoilt for choice for resting spots from which to enjoy the beautiful views – so, over the course of the weekend, we chose them all!

Winchcombe Farm Holidays, Ben's Burrow, Upper Tysoe, glamping retreat, staycation

Luxuriating in a hot tub on raised decking is undoubtedly one of the best possible spots from which to soak up the rolling Warwickshire hills. But, determined to make the most of every inch of the private area exclusively reserved for Ben’s Burrow guests, we also spent time hanging out in the hammocks, and relaxing in the loungers, deck chairs (yes, there’s even a small makeshift beach area!) and geodesic dome. Partly suspended over a duck pond, the dome is the most exquisite spot for peaceful meditation and reflection. I defy anyone not to drift off to sleep on the daybed under the stars if left to their own devices for long enough!

Winchcombe Farm Holidays, Ben's Burrow, Upper Tysoe, glamping retreat, staycation

And for when you can’t sleep – because you’ve been daytime dozing -there’s even a telescope so you can stargaze at the night skies in unrivalled comfort.

Unique to this lodge, you can also enjoy access to your very own fire pit, surrounded by log stump seats. What better way to appreciate the great outdoors than bonding with friends and family over some toasted marshmallows beneath the stars!

Plus there’s also a private patio enclosure to the rear complete with ride-on toys for the littlies.

When indoors the environment’s not too shabby either. The spacious open-plan kitchen and lounge features all the mod-cons including American-style fridge freezer, dishwasher, microwave, SMEG kettle and toaster and oven-grill.

Central feature is a grand dining table as well as plenty of sumptuous seating in which to kick back and enjoy the 55inch Smart TV and DVD player after a busy day out exploring – or, in our case, bubbling in the hot tub.

Winchcombe Farm Holidays, Ben's Burrow, Upper Tysoe, glamping retreat, staycation

If the weather is kind – as it was for us – you can make the most of the alfresco dining area, which even boasts a charcoal pizza over and six-burner gas barbecue.

But it’s owner Jo Carroll’s keen eye for detail and thoughtful touches throughout the property that help really set this place apart. From the welcome basket containing fruit and cake on arrival, to the stylish interior décor statements, you feel like you are guest in her own home – a home that’s been lavished with a great deal of love and attention to ensure ultimate guests satisfaction.

 

But none of it’s at the sacrifice of practicality as Jo has thought of everything. For instance, the downstairs double room, which has been equipped with parents of young children in mind, includes a cot, rocking chair and even a Teasmade, for those disturbed nights.

While the downstairs king-size room affords its own adjoining en suite featuring shower and toilet.

Another corridor reveals a stairway to access the triple bedroom, with its own freestanding bath, double-width power shower and separate toilet.

And there’s the most delightful adjoining self-contained studio flat, fully equipped with twin beds, kitchenette and private bathroom – perfect bolthole for in-laws or teenagers seeking some independent space.

Ben’s Burrow is an absolute triumph and is set to become a hugely popular addition to the Winchcombe property stable

The other properties are:

Will’s Tree House – The only treehouse in Warwickshire, it is ingeniously architect-designed to sit among the canopies of four supporting trees, which rise through the decking and kitchen. It sleeps four people, blissfully combining indoor and outdoor life with every imaginable comfort.

Bob’s Lodge – a two storey house for six but has space for another two in a geodesic dome with a super-king-sized circular bed and stargazing equipment.

Chicken Shed Lodge – Equipped with another geodesic dome and a wrap-around veranda, the third property is a stylishly restored retreat for five people.

George’s Getaway –This sleeps up to eight people in three bedrooms (and a geodesic dome) and boasts twin freestanding bath tubs.

With staycations on the rise, Winchcombe is the perfect destination of choice for a COVID-safe oasis of rest and relaxation.

Winchcombe Farm Holidays, Ben's Burrow, Upper Tysoe, glamping retreat, staycation

If you want to stake your claim I suggest you get in double quick. Check out the website here

Excitement hots up for reinvented bar and grill (Review)

Excitement hots up for reinvented bar and grill (Review)

AMIDST a climate of uncertainty for the hospitality sector, it’s refreshing to find myself writing about a new business that’s emerging from lockdown – or at least a reinvented one.

What originally began life last year as a two-floor coffee shop, has been renovated and transformed into a brand new bar and grill. Whether you’ve been there before or not, there’s plenty to tempt you through their doors – and I don’t just mean the food.

Fratelli's Br & Grill, Coventry, review

Let’s get new of some of the most important changes out of the way first – This is now also a restaurant with a real fun factor – and at affordable prices – in the shape of 2for1 cocktails all day every day! And I’ve been tipped the wink that there are even some cocktail masterclasses on the way!

But if that prospect doesn’t whet your appetite, the food certainly will. There’s something to satisfy all tastes, including a dedicated Gluten-Free Menu.

A choice of eight starters ranges from Chicken Wings and Southern Fried Chicken Strips, to Mozzarella Sticks and Calamari while mains offer a range of burgers, pizza, pasta, meat and fish.

Our selections – the ribeye steak, Mac & Cheese and Chicken Skewers (you can also opt for a steak version) were fresh, tasty and plentiful. A good range of side dishes are also available.

Fratelli's Br & Grill, Coventry, review

I was also tempted by the BBQ Cheese Chicken Wrap or the Club Sandwich – but these may have to be one of many reasons to return.

Service is friendly and efficient and we felt COVID safe at all times. (There was plenty of sanitiser available and the tables were suitably distanced.) We were seated in one of their booths which felt especially private and cocooned.

Prices are of a level you’d expect to see in most restaurants of this type – from £4-£6 for starters and £8.45-£18.25 for entrees and there were no complaints from us on taste, quality or portion size.

Situated on two floors, the emphasis is more on coffee and snacks downstairs and bar and grill upstairs but there’s a comfortable vibe throughout and it all felt clean and well organised.

Fratelli's Br & Grill, Coventry, review

One note for the suggestion box might be an extra veggie option or two (there seems to be more emphasis on catering for those with allergies than vegetarians.

But look out for the 2for1 pizza offer on Thursdays if you’re a student (with valid ID) whispers of a Steak Night soon to be announced and the extension of the Government’s Eat Out to Help Out Scheme, with 25% off valid Sunday-Thursday. What’s not to love?

Fratelli's Br & Grill, Coventry, review

Fratelli’s Bar & Grill in Hertford Street is working hard to find tasty offers to keep us coming back for more. The proof of the pudding, as they say, is in the eating – and with delights such as Cookie Dough Salted Caramel Crunch Pie, New York Cheesecake and Cinnamon Waffle on the desserts menu, the eating doiesn’t come more delicious than that!

Check them out at: https://fratellibarandgrill.co.uk/2020/09/03/grand-opening/

An al fresco feast of comedy, music and food (Review)

An al fresco feast of comedy, music and food (Review)

WE all need something to smile about at the moment, right?

Thanks to the team at Warwick Castle we can laugh our socks off in an outdoor environment suitably socially distanced and safe in the knowledge that no rules are being broken in the pursuit of much-needed live entertainment. What’s not to love?

Warwick Castle, Picnic In The Park, comedy, live music

A new lifestyle festival, which opened yesterday, is one of the castle’s innovative approaches to COVID-friendly music and comedy. Set against a backdrop of one of the UK’s most stunning vistas, one doesn’t sense any form of sacrifice in terms of venue.

In fact, I’d love to see more outdoor festivals such as this become a permanent feature in summers to come as a welcome complement to the theatres.

Picnic At The Castle, which runs for eight days and nights over the next two weeks, offers top tunes, big laughs and delicious locally-sourced food, all enjoyed from your very own fairy-light-clad COVID-compliant pergola.

Warwick Castle, Picnic In The Park, comedy, live music

Situated in the shadow of the magnificent castle on the banks of the River Avon, this natural scene is more beautifully set than any theatrical backdrop you’ll ever see, as we settle back for two hours of our choice of either live stand-up or music.

As one of the comic’s said, if we get bored of the entertainment, we can stare at the view instead!

Groups of up to six can book a pergola, while couples can sit out under a personal parasol and, depending on what time of day you decide to come, there’s a suitable tasty treat to accompany your experience.

Warwick Castle, Picnic In The Park, comedy, live music

Festival Sessions include:

Yoga Session: 8:00-10am – find balance and reconnect with nature, followed by a delicious healthy breakfast.

Graze session: 12:15-2:15pm – Sit back and enjoy two musical performances while sampling a tasty graze box.

Gorge session: 3:15- 5:15pm – Sit back and enjoy two musical performances or stand-up comedy while sampling tasty treats.

Banquet session: 7-9.30pm – Enjoy stand-up comedy shows or live music acts while munching on a delicious hog roast and making use of the caravan bar. Particularly look out for Phil Wang, headlining on Sunday night.

Last night’s feast of comedy, headlined by hysterical sister act Flo & Jo, certainly hit the spot – as did the interval hog roast!

And there was even the bonus of the weather staying kind for us too.

As dusk fell, with our bellies full and our ribs tickled, there were few places we’d rather be at that moment in time.

Warwick Castle, Picnic In The Park, comedy, live music

If I was to add any suggestions for an even more enhanced experience, I would like to see better lighting. It was difficult to make out the comedians when night fell as they chose to perform off-stage. And the ‘sweet treat’ which followed our hog roast did slightly disappoint.

However, these are minor imperfections on what was an otherwise much-welcomed distraction from the issues of the day.

At between £30 and £50 for adults, the price is better value than it might at first seem because it also includes castle entry, either on the same or following day. (In itself worth £22)

With a new emphasis on al fresco entertainment in the present climate, this is one of those I would be inclined to recommend. A truly lovely evening – but bring along your brolly just in case.

Picnic at the Castle is only available via pre-booking online. For line-ups and bookings visit: www.warwick-castle.com/explore/events/picnic-at-the-castle.