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.

A feast of music and comedy at the castle

A feast of music and comedy at the castle

THERE’S plenty of opportunity to make up for lost time at outdoor events this summer with a fantastic new lifestyle festival at Warwick Castle, from this week.

Between September 17th-October 4th you can catch comedy and live music shows as part of the brand new ‘Picnic at the Castle’, held in partnership with creative events specialists Midsummer Nightcap. This imaginative festival offers top tunes, big laughs and delicious locally-sourced picnic hampers (including a medieval-style hog roast to suit the surroundings), all enjoyed from COVID-compliant pergolas.

Picnic at the Castle, Warwick Castle, live music, comedy, hog roast

Groups of up to six can book their own pergola, while couples can sit out under a personal parasol located in the beautiful Castle grounds. Choose between a tasty meat or vegetarian graze box option during the day and enjoy a hog roast picnic during the evening (vegetarian alternatives are available). Each hamper is full of locally sourced, high-quality food, perfect for sharing.

Festival Sessions include:

Yoga Session: 8:00-10am – find balance and reconnect with nature within the grounds of Warwick Castle, followed by a delicious healthy breakfast.

Picnic at the Castle, Warwick Castle, live music, comedy, hog roast

Graze session: 12:15-2:15pm – sit back and enjoy two musical performances sampling a tasty graze box and sipping on scrumptious cocktails.

Gorge session: 3:15- 5:15pm – similar to the ‘Graze’ session above, get together to listen to two musicians whilst enjoying tasty treats and tipples in the grounds of Warwick Castle

Banquet session: 7-10pm – on Thursday and Sunday evenings enjoy stand-up comedy shows, with Friday and Saturdays boasting headline music acts. Munch on a delicious ‘hog roast’ and make use of the caravan bar, for an evening spent either crying with laughter or dancing the night away!

“This really is a socially-distanced outdoor experience like no other, it’s the perfect way to reconnect with loved ones and enjoy live entertainment in one of the most beautiful locations anywhere in the country,” said Francesca Nally, Managing Director, Midsummer Nightcap.

Picnic at the Castle, Warwick Castle, live music, comedy, hog roast

Nick Blofeld, Divisional Director of Warwick Castle said: “We’re delighted to have ‘Picnic at the Castle’ with us this September. We love seeing our guests enjoy themselves at the many different events we host at the Castle every year.

“Picnic at the Castle has all the ingredients for a fantastic, and safe, experience. It’s going to be great fun and genuinely distinctive with live music, comedy and a luxurious picnic all served up in a beautiful setting alongside the river and the Castle as a backdrop.”

Confirmed acts include:

Headline musical performances confirmed so far include Roy Stride – lead singer from Scouting For Girls. Lucy Spraggan (X-Factor contestant 2012) and Ferris & Sylvester – 2020 winner of ‘Emerging Artist Award’ at the UK Americana Awards.

Phil Wang, Picnic at the Castle, Warwick Castle, live music, comedy, hog roast

Headline comedians confirmed so far include Phil Wang, pictured, (Netflix, Live At The Apollo), Flo & Joan (Amazon Prime, Live At The Apollo) and Sindhu Vee (Live At The Apollo, Have I Got News For You)

Drinks caravan bar ‘Maggie’ will also be on-site providing a range of alcoholic and non-alcoholic drinks, with a  variety of special occasions’ packages available.

Picnic at the Castle is only available via pre-booking online. All bookings include access to the Castle, car parking, live entertainment, dedicated gazebos and picnic (hog roast) hampers.

Tickets can be booked at: www.warwick-castle.com/explore/events/picnic-at-the-castle.

Tragedy inspires bereavement campaign – 15 years later

Tragedy inspires bereavement campaign – 15 years later

IN the early hours of a June morning in 2004, Tracey McAtamney took a phone call that was to change her and her children’s lives forever.

It was the worst news imaginable for the mum-of-two from Balsall Common, who is now launching a series of seminars and Memory Boxes as part of a foundation she founded 15 years later.

Her husband Tony, who had left for his regular Law Society golf trip to Spain just days earlier, had suddenly died.

Surviving Bereavement, Tracey McAtamney, Memory Boxes, seminars

“We would normally go as a family but this particular year my older son, Anthony who was 15, was just taking his last GCSE exam so I made the decision to stay at home with the boys,” recalled Tracey.

“He had spoken to me on the Sunday night and I always remember, he said ‘I wish you were here.’ He spoke to the boys and finished the call to me with ‘I love you.’

“Oliver, who was just seven at the time, wanted to sleep in my bed because his daddy was away. At 1am my mobile rang and I grabbed it and just had this feeling. I stumbled into the bathroom and answered the phone and there was just one word – he just said my name. There was a silence and I just said: ‘he’s dead isn’t he?’

“When he said ‘yes’ I just collapsed in a heap on the floor. I remember sliding down the bathroom door and saying ‘OK, I can’t talk now because Oliver is in the bedroom. I’m going to have to call you back.’ It felt like someone had punched me in the chest. I crawled out of the bedroom because I didn’t want Oliver to see me, I just couldn’t face him.

“I opened Anthony’s bedroom door, where he was still awake with his friend, and just blurted it out. Anthony just looked at me, we hugged and the tears came down.”

Tony was discovered on the floor of his hotel room after suffering what turned out to be an abdominal aneurism.

It came as a huge shock as news spread to friends and colleagues of this well-known and respected lawyer who had been running his own practice in Coventry for 20 years.

He was also well known for charitable work and was a trustee and secretary of the St Bernadette’s Trust which organised trips to Lourdes for youngsters and raised money to help those unable to pay.

Tracey, 54, said: “People are not meant to die on holiday. They are meant to come home. I had lost my husband, father of my children, our livelihood and most of all, my best friend. How do you tell a seven-year-old that his daddy is never coming home? To this day, this is the worst thing I have ever had to do.”

Surviving Bereavement, Tracey McAtamney, Memory Boxes, seminars
Memory box

It was some 15 years later, in 2019, that this tragic event was to inspire a series of new ventures aimed at helping others overcome loss, and a foundation called Surviving Bereavement was born.

Tracey explained: “I started to go to a networking group Ladies First which was being run by a couple of ladies I knew we each shared our personal stories. This is the first time I had publicly talked about my loss and dealing with grief and resilience. It was following this I realised how many people were touched by my story and I was invited to be ‘A Women of Spirit’ in 2019 as well as publishing my own book, Hidden Strength.

“When I was asked to write my story I was surprised, but decided, if my experiences could help others, it would be worth it.

“Once my book was released a lot of people started getting in touch for advice and that’s when I decided to establish Surviving Bereavement, to raise money to fund my Memory Box/Memory Bag Campaign.”

“I had closed all these emotional boxes 15 years ago and once I had the time to open them, I realised that I had a lot to share.”

Surviving Bereavement exists to offer legal and financial advice as well as practical help, all the things, says Tracey, that were not to hand when she needed them.

She said: “Our aim is to raise awareness of not just the emotional aspect of grief, but also the practical and the mental wellbeing required to survive bereavement.

“After someone dies you find yourself surrounded by paperwork. I realised quickly that people needed help.”

Surviving Bereavement, Tracey McAtamney, Memory Boxes, seminars

This support also takes the form of seminars, a new series of which are now being planned remotely after lockdown brought an abrupt end to face to face gatherings.

A host of speakers are lined up to talk about their own personal experience with bereavement from this month, including topics on How to Support a Bereaved Young Person; How to Decide Style of Funeral Service and Coping With Baby Loss, attended by Sharon Luca-Chatha who founded The Luca Foundation following the stillbirth of her son Luca. (https://thelucafoundation.org.uk/) Further details on seminars at: https://survivingbereavement.com/seminars/

Efforts to find innovative new ways to keep the support going through the pandemic has coincided with a need for service being brought into even sharper focus.

She said: “At the moment there is an awful lot of pain because people are not able to see loved ones when they die and I relate to that because there was a lot of anger and regret that I couldn’t be there for Tony.

“We were only just getting the foundation on its feet when lockdown struck. It’s been very hard not to be able to meet up face to face. I really believe that talking is the best thing and really does help – but not being able to give out hugs at the moment is hard.

“I think these meetings are going to be needed after this pandemic more than ever.”

The latest initiative to come out of the foundation is her new Memory Boxes, created in Tony’s memory and personally hand-delivered by Tracey herself.

The bespoke boxes and bags, which are available for children and young adults, typically contain items such as forget-me-not seeds, a personalised book and letter and age-relevant treat item.

“I thought memory boxes were really important to offer some comfort, but when I looked into it there was nowhere that actually gave them away for free, so I thought I would set it up myself,” said Tracey.

“I do cherish the importance of memories. You can lose people but you can’t lose memories. They are always there and we should treasure them as much as we can.

“I’m hoping to be able to put the boxes into hospices but I haven’t been able to do that yet because everything closed down.”

One of Tracey’s own cherished keepsakes following Tony’s death, is actually a golf ball.

“When I went to Spain to repatriate Tony’s body, I visited his hotel room and the weirdest thing happened – a golf ball rolled out from under the bed. It was like some sort of message. That’s Tony telling us that he’s OK, I thought. That turned out to be a sort of turning point for me.”

Surviving Bereavement, Tracey McAtamney, Memory Boxes, seminars
Tracey and her sons today

It was to be 12 years later when Tracey had to come to terms with her loss that her her mum died following a two-year battle with ovarian cancer.

And she was no stranger to grief even at an early age, after losing her father in an accident when she was just seven – the same age as her youngest son Oliver had since lost his father.

It is hoped Surviving Bereavement will continue to grow and help navigate more people through their journey with grief which, Tracey promises, does become easier.

“You go through pain, anger and sadness but you do get through the other side and you smile again. It’s about survival more than anything else. But you do survive. That is why I wanted to do this, to show that to people.

“The pain changes and you never stop missing somebody that’s lost from your life. But memories must always be treasured and talked about. They mustn’t be the elephant in the room.

“I developed a coping mechanism which I never knew existed. I had no choice, my boys were now my priority and I would protect them with my life. We would survive.”

Surviving Bereavement, Tracey McAtamney, Memory Boxes, seminars
Tracey at the launch of her bereavement book Hidden Strength

Now settled with a new partner of 10 years – and spending as much time as she can keeping up with her sons, now aged 32 and 23, three step-children, Helen, Victoria and Gerard, and four step-grandchildren, aged between 4-16, Tracey knows Tony’s memory is never far away.

“I think he would be so proud of his whole family. When I go to see them I always get upset because it brings home what he’s missing out on.

“But I don’t think he’d recognise me today. I am a different person. I became a different person the moment that phone call arrived.”

She added: “Over the last 15 years, I have had to rely on that inner strength to get me and the boys through situations that have seemed impossible. Death has not defined us as a family, however it has truly shaped us as people.

“My motto – there is always a light at the end of a tunnel and always an answer to that impossible situation – and that’s what Surviving Bereavement is here to help with too.”

Visit Surviving Bereavement at: https://survivingbereavement.com/

For further information or to enquire about donating, contact Tracey McAtamney at: tracey@survivingbereavement.com