Cidery owners proceed with caution as they plan long-awaited summer of fun in new taproom

Cidery owners proceed with caution as they plan long-awaited summer of fun in new taproom

The owners of an award-winning cidery have pledged to limit visitor numbers to their new taproom despite finally being permitted to launch tasting tours and events there.

Planned festivals, workshops and tasting tours were abruptly cancelled on the eve of the taproom’s grand unveiling at Napton Cidery in March last year, when the first Covid lockdown was imposed.

But Jolyon and Charlotte Olivier, who lost more than £100,000 in revenue due to the pandemic, went on to launch a hugely successful crowdfunding campaign earlier this year to help mount a post-pandemic recovery of their business.

Napton Cidery, Taproom, Tasting Tours
Jolyon, Charlotte and Matilda Olivier with the Taproom Special cider and Smudge the dog.

Despite an end to the Covid restrictions, the taproom, which finally opened its doors last month, is capping the numbers for the long-awaited return of The Ploughman’s & Cider Tasting Tours by up to a third.

As well as releasing a limited-edition Taproom Special cider to mark the occasion, there’s a summer of celebration in the planning at the Cidery with the launch of a new series of live events including comedy, music and cocktail nights.

Although masks won’t be mandatory, sanitiser use will be encouraged and doors and windows left open for air circulation.

Charlotte said: “We’ve been waiting a long time for this and it feels quite emotional seeing people finally coming through our doors. We were gutted that we didn’t get a chance to open the tap room last March but have spent lockdown getting it ready for our customers, plus we’re so excited to be planning events again. I think we’ll all appreciate them more than ever.”

She added: “But while we welcome so-called ‘Freedom Day’ for businesses, we are also sensitive to some of our customers’ concerns. We’re mindful of the rising numbers of cases and how people are at different stages of the journey as they tackle the lasting effects of this pandemic.

“We want our visitors to feel safe in the knowledge that we very much have their interests at heart while still ensuring it doesn’t impact on their experience with us.”

Both tasting tours are led by Charlotte who gives visitors a unique insight into the cider making process and the story behind Napton’s award-winning recipes.

The business started life as a hobby nine years ago when the couple were first introduced to the taste of craft cider on a family holiday to Cornwall. Returning home to with an apple tree, they soon started experimenting in their back garden.

Today, the team harvests, presses, bottles and distributes more than 90,000 litres of craft cider a year, using 17 types of apples from six orchards across the Herefordshire region.

Central to Napton’s growing popularity among customers is its strong sustainability ethos, from harvesting through to packaging. All of its apples come from traditional unsprayed orchards, organic and biodiverse growers, so no unnatural chemicals are introduced into the ecosystem. The cider is also naturally fermented using only wild yeasts and packaged in recyclable materials and all ingredients sourced as locally as possible.

The shop also sells perry, juices, spirits and vinegars as well as a new products the team have been working on this year – including Apple Cider Brandy, canned ciders and branded collectors’ glasses. There’s also the opportunity to sample them all.

The Cidery is open Monday-Saturday 10am-6pm and Sunday 12-5pm.

Visit Napton Cidery at: https://www.naptoncidery.co.uk/

Learn more about the Ploughman and Cider Tasting Tours at: https://www.naptoncidery.co.uk/visit-us

Previous articles: Independent Cidery launches limited -edition to mark launch of new taproom – after 14-month delay! | Chalmers News PR

Supporting campaign will help cidery beat pandemic | Chalmers News PR

Self-catering business maintaining safety measures as part of cautious approach to ‘Freedom Day’

Self-catering business maintaining safety measures as part of cautious approach to ‘Freedom Day’

Winchcombe Farm Holidays, Freedom Day, Jo Carroll

THE owners of a boutique glamping retreat in Warwickshire have vowed to maintain their enhanced Covid restrictions despite the end of legislation from today (Monday).

The decision will come as reassurance to guests against a backdrop of rising infection rates across the country as the vaccination programme continues to be rolled out.

Due to the enhanced cleaning regime, the business will maintain its later check-in times and there are no plans yet to reintroduce the fabric furnishings, books, games and toys which were removed under the previous restrictions. Welcome baskets in all the lodges will continue to include only single-packaged items and staff will wear full PPE. There are also sanitiser stations throughout the site.

While Jo Carroll, co-owner of Winchcombe Farm Holidays in Upper Tysoe, has welcomed the easing of restrictions, she fears it may not mean an end to the business challenges ahead.

“While the pandemic is by no means over, we are pleased to see a change to some of the rules we have been working to over the last few months. But we go forwards from Monday very much with cautious optimism. The current extremely high infection rates are worrying and will no doubt lead to another wave of cancellations and dent consumer confidence,” she said.

“Our housekeeping costs have doubled, as we maintain cleaning standards dictated to us by Visit England, but we have decided to retain the same rigorous regime for many more months to come. It is essential that our guests feel our accommodation is clean, safe and secure in the current climate.”

Winchcombe Farm Holidays, Freedom Day, Jo Carroll, Will's Treehouse
Will’s Treehouse

Winchcombe has been closed for eight of the last 16 months, costing Jo and partner Steve Taylor, tens of thousands of pounds in lost business.

The couple received emergency support from the Government’s Hospitality Grant Scheme – which covered all their basic utility bills – plus free business rates, but fell into the 10% of workers who didn’t qualify for any personal financial help.

The family-run retreat finally reopened to guests in April following a sustained six-month period of closure, but bookings which continued to contravene the Covid-19 regulations along the Government’s roadmap, resulted in more refunds.

Jo said: “For the last few months, we have only been permitted to have six people from six different households or two households in a holiday lodge at any one time. This has caused a logistical nightmare for some of the large group reservations, and we’ve cancelled many bookings as a result – refunding thousands of pounds to customers in order to ensure that we didn’t break the rules.

“We’ve also jumped through hoops to ensure that we have track and trace information for every single guest aged over the age of 16, which has taken hours and hours of admin time.”

Winchcombe Farm Holidays, Freedom Day, Jo Carroll

And, for the mum of two, both the business and personal sacrifices have, at times been a difficult pill to swallow.

She said: “It was extremely frustrating to see that 66,000 people were allowed to gather at Wembley to watch the Euro 2020 final when we weren’t allowed to have seven people staying together in a holiday lodge in a remote rural location.

“We were not even allowed to attend our children’s sports days this year due to Covid, however thousands of people descend on Wimbledon for the tennis. There does seem to be some definite disparity in the rules.”

The couple, who established their glamping business just over two years ago on the foundations of their former privately-run nursery, currently have five lodges and a tree house for guests on their farm, including the recently opened Jess’ Tree Bach.

Visit Winchcombe Farm Holidays at: http://winchcombefarm.co.uk/

More about Winchcombe Farm

This unique collection of luxurious holiday homes has been beautifully designed and equipped to offer the very height of luxury – from steaming hot tubs and hammocks to outdoor pizza ovens and geodesic domes for a spot of stargazing.

The family-run, independent holiday retreat is hidden away on a private country estate in the glorious Warwickshire countryside on the north east tip of the Cotswolds in an Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty.

Surrounded by a working farm, Winchcombe Farm lies beneath the famous battlefield landmark of Edgehill and makes the perfect base for exploring Stratford-upon-Avon and some of the picturesque Cotswold villages nearby.

Comedian awaiting heart transplant headlines at local comedy gig

Comedian awaiting heart transplant headlines at local comedy gig

An award-winning comedian who is still active on the comedy circuit despite waiting for a heart transplant, heads a line up of laughter makers at a charity stand-up gig in Warwick next month.

Mel Moon, from Burnley, will oversee the laughs, which are being delivered by four comedians from across the country – Damon Conlan from Walsall; Samantha Day, from Watford; Sam Rhodes from London and Matt Trimble, from Worcester.

The gig takes place at Warwickspace in Coten End on July 31st, marking the long-awaited return of charity stand-up events organised by the Comedy at Work creatives Anne Docherty from Kenilworth and Mark Hinds from Warwick.

Damon Conlan, Mel Moon, Comedy at Work, Helping Hands
Damon Conlan

It was just as her promising comedy career was taking off in 2017, that Mel suffered chronic heart failure – only days after the birth of her youngest child.

Her relationship broke down and she found herself now a single mum of three and suffering from Left Ventricular Systolic Dysfyunction and Cardiomyopathy, conditions she describes as a ‘death sentence’ hanging over her.

Matt Trimble, Damon Conlan, Mel Moon, Comedy at Work, Helping Hands
Matt Trimble

She is kept alive by a defibrillator device fitted to her heart but, due to a deterioration in her condition throughout the pandemic, has now been put forward for an LVAD (Left Ventricular Assist Device) – an external mechanical pump which relieves the pressure on the heart until a transplant date comes around.

Mel Moon, Comedy at Work, Helping Hands
Mel Moon with her third son Sonny in 2017

“There was a health event that occurred in each of my pregnancies which increased in severity. My body was telling me to stop having kids and I ignored it.

“Polyglandular Failure was diagnosed several months after Riley, my second son, was born.

“Most pregnant women felt better once they’d delivered but I felt a million times worse and I couldn’t understand why that was. It was a very scary chain of events involving me nearly dying and having an adrenal crisis. But even at that point they didn’t link it to pregnancy.

“Then I recall one day a consultant from London told me that ‘some women just aren’t meant to have children.’ They’re not built for it,’ he said. Looking back, they had all been red flags but until the heart failure, nobody connected them. As soon as they were connected I was immediately sterilised and that was that.”

She added: “We are effectively running out of time. I had shown a marked deterioration in my health over the Covid period. The idea behind the LVAD is to get you strong enough to withstand the heart transplant which is very taxing on the body, and to get your arteries in good condition.

“But I am all too aware that I could die at any second and I don’t know when. How do you even begin to prepare for that? I can’t put it into words. All I can do is take it a day at a time.”

Hard to imagine then that Mel has much to laugh about. Yet it’s her dark sense of humour that she credits with getting her through every adversity life’s thrown at her to date.

Samantha Day, Damon Conlan, Mel Moon, Comedy at Work, Helping HandsA professional comedian for more than 10 years, she was tipped for success and has won plaudits for her one-woman show at the Edinburgh Fringe Festival called Sick Girl – of which a TV pilot still lurks in the wings – and she has appeared live alongside such greats as Jack Whitehall, Sarah Millican, Jason Manford and Russell Brand.

But one of her personal highlights is her appearance at the same venue as her comedy inspiration, the late great Victoria Wood.

It was in this spirit that she kept millions of people entertained in lockdowns with her hit satirical series, Personalised Pop – parody sketches and songs lambasting everything from Donald Trump and Boris Johnson to social distancing and Brexit.

She said: “I don’t remember a time in my life when I didn’t have humour to get me through. My own adversities have unquestionably made my comedy better. Nearly dying was the biggest one. It made me less cynical even though it was at a time when I should have felt most angry with the world and made me appreciate the beauty of humanity which I’d never really seen before. It then let me get closer to humanity and spot the hilarious things that people say and do. I love satire.

“I do a gig and then I’m in bed for three days. But it’s about remembering who I am and thinking, one day I’ll be her again – or even a better version.”

Mel Moon, Comedy at Work, Helping Hands
Comedy at Work founders Anne Docherty and Mark Hinds. Photo by David Fawbert Photography.

As well as bringing stand-up to venues across the country in support of local charities, Comedy at Work hosts a series of workshops for all ages, all with comedy and wellbeing at their heart – from school leavers and graduates support through to team building, corporate training and even wedding speech coaching.

During lockdown they successfully transitioned their workshops online but have already seen a huge demand for tickets for the first of their returning face to face comedy nights in venues across the region.

Mark Hinds said: “We are so excited to get back to live events. With great crowds and excellent comedians. The extending of lockdown rules threw a small spanner in the works but, we are working hard within the rules to still put on great events and raise much-needed funds for all the charities that we work with.

“To be working with such a fantastic charity as Helping Hands is a real privilege for Anne and myself. We’ve secured a great line up and we know that the laughs are guaranteed.”

Visit: https://www.comedyatwork.com/ for further information or to book.

Sam Rhodes, Damon Conlan, Mel Moon, Comedy at Work, Helping Hands

Some of the proceeds from the night will benefit Leamington charity Helping Hands which supports the vulnerable through a host of local community initiatives in areas including homelessness, addiction, mental health, unemployment, housing, rehabilitation, food banks and domestic violence.

Fundraising Officer Leila Gough said: “The past 15 months have been difficult and challenging for us all and for those most vulnerable the impact has been devastating. Having lost the ability to host our fundraising events has been difficult, not only for the vital funds that are raised, but also for the human interactions that are so essential to us all for our mental wellbeing.

“We are delighted to be hosting our first public fundraising event in conjunction with Comedy at Work as we feel that a social event where laughter and enjoyment of being out with loved ones is definitely needed.”

More information about the charity can be found at: https://www.helpinghandshomecare.co.uk/

Friends adopt ‘pedalo power’ for canal fundraiser

Friends adopt ‘pedalo power’ for canal fundraiser

PEDAL power will be driving two south Warwickshire fundraisers who are putting their weight behind an unusual challenge for a local children’s charity.

Friends Alex Pearson from Stratford and Emma Brayne from Warwick will be joined by two canine companions as they travel almost 12km of The Grand Union Canal – in a pedalo!

Pedalo Challenge, Molly Olly's Wishes, Rachel Ollerenshaw
Alex, Emma, Archie and Chester in training.

The pair have been in training to prepare for the eight-hour challenge, which will see them set off from Radford Semele and finish at Hatton Locks, on July 13th in aid of Warwick charity Molly Olly’s Wishes.

As community champion of Morrisons, in Leamington, Alex, 33, is no stranger to fundraising, recent efforts including sponsored walks for both Safeline and Clic Sargent.

She said: “We did some really good work with other charities and I was told about the work Molly Olly’s do. I was so keen to support and help raise money for this great charity.

She added: “We’ve been doing lots of pedalling on a machine whilst working at our desks with our feet going like mad underneath. We know this is going to be hard and we are having lots of practises on the pedalo beforehand to get ourselves ready.”

“I like to think outside the box when it comes to fundraising. All my family and friends say I am mad but they know what I decide to do is for the greater good. I like to do the toughest challenge and push myself as much as possible.”

Along with Emma, Alex will be joined been joined, as on most of her challenges, with her dogs Archie and Chester.

“These two are my world and I love the fact they can join me in doing these fundraisers. Also people like to donate money because of them,” Alex added.

Molly Olly’s Wishes was established in 2011 following the death of Rachel and Tim Ollerenshaw’s eight-year-old daughter Molly from a rare kidney cancer.

The Warwick-based charity works to support children with terminal or life-limiting illnesses and their families and help with their emotional wellbeing as well as grant wishes and donate 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 more than 40 hospitals, along with a book from the charity’s exclusive Olly The Brave series.

Part of more than £2.5m raised to date, has also been used to fund the first Molly Olly consultant in paediatric medicine at Birmingham Children’s Hospital.

Molly Olly's Wishes
Rachel Ollerenshaw

“Rachel Ollerenshaw said: “We always love new and creative ways to fundraise and Alex’s pedalo challenge is certainly that. Alex and the team at Morrisons Leamington have been very supportive. They do so much for our local community. Molly Olly’s are very grateful for the help and would ask people to support where they can. The latest delays in the rules have meant that more fundraising events have had to be cancelled so any fundraising is very welcome as we have many families who need our support.”

The girls, who have had the support of Leamington Boats and The Canal River Trust, are also adding collection tins in the store and hope to reach their fundraising target of £500. To donate visit HERE

Emma, 39, added: “I felt I wanted to play my part to help Alex. When I heard which charity it was in aid of and learned all about what they do, it only made me want to help even more. Molly Olly’s do so much for families going through the unimaginable turmoil experienced by a poorly child, so me suffering a few sore limbs is nothing.”

Further information about Molly Olly’s Wishes or how to donate can be found at: www.mollyolly.co.uk

Glynn Purnell among judges for Foodie Awards ‘cook-off’

Glynn Purnell among judges for Foodie Awards ‘cook-off’

A Masterchef-style cook-off judged by celebrity chef Glynn Purnell, is to decide the winner of the Chef/Cook of the Year in the inaugural Coventry and Warwickshire Foodie Awards.

Competition will be hotting up in the cookery school kitchen at The Farm in Stratford-upon-Avon, on July 13th, when the finalists are each invited to showcase a favourite signature dish, ahead of the final ceremony nine days later.

Foodie Awards 2021, Glynn Purnell, Andreas Antona, Jonatahan Smith, Trish Willetts
‘Yummy Brummie’ chef Glynn Purnell

The four finalists are: Tobias Reutt from Earlsdon Supper Club; George Cambridge from Warwick Street Kitchen, in Leamington; Baabzi Miah from Baabzi’s in Warwick and Jay Alam of Tumeric Gold in Coventry. And the category is sponsored by award-winning butcher’s Aubrey Allen.

The Foodie Awards 2021, in partnership with Visit Coventry and Warwickshire County Council, was established to recognise an array of food and drink businesses from producers to chefs, street food traders, restaurants and bars.

Baabzi Miah, of Baabzi’s Indian Takeaway in Warwick is among the finalists.

‘Yummy Brummie’ Glynn Purnell will be tasting the dishes alongside his former employer Andreas Antona, owner of The Cross in Kenilworth.

The popular chef, who regularly appears on Saturday Kitchen, said: “I’m very excited to be judging the finalists in the Best Chef/ Cook category of the Coventry and Warwickshire Foodie Awards alongside my old boss Andreas Antona. Between us, we have the very tough task of finding out who is the best chef in this exciting upcoming culinary region, and I can’t wait to taste the selection of dishes in the final.”

Categories for the awards also include best artisan food and drink producers, best farm shop, best independent food and drink retailer, best newcomer and best street food trader, 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.

Andreas Antona, chef owner of The Cross at Kenilworth and Simpsons in Edgbaston – both of which hold Michelin stars, said: “We have many passionate and talented producers, chefs and restaurants in Warwickshire and it’s great to celebrate this with the Foodies Awards. I hope we can build on what has been achieved during such challenging times to make them bigger and better next year.”

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. This year he launched Antona at Home, a nationwide meal and food delivery service with a passion for produce at its heart.

Coventry & Warwickshire Foodie Awards, Glynn Purnell
George Cambridge of Warwick Street Kitchen in Leamington.

All the winners will be announced at a ceremony at The Box at FarGo Village in Coventry, on July 22nd where money will also be raised for The Trussell Trust network of eight food banks in Coventry and Warwickshire.

Co-organiser of The Foodies, Jonathan Smith, of Talk Business UK, said: ‘’When we launched the Foodie Awards one of the key criteria was to have those highly respected in the culinary world engaging with the awards to be the critical friends and assessing their peers in the industry, whether from established businesses or just starting out. It is fantastic having Glynn, Antona and Russell so generously giving their time in this way.”

Charlie Wells, spokesperson for The Farm in Snitterfield, said: “We are super excited to be hosting the cook-off for the Foodie Awards 2021 finalists, along with Glynn Purnell and Andreas Antona. Thank you Foodie Awards for joining us at The Farm! Our Cookery School is about to welcome some of the best chefs in the area and we cannot wait! Best of luck to the finalists!”

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