Blooming marvellous gardens

Even smaller displays could be winners in the Heart of England in Bloom competition

Get growing for competition Sutton residents urged

Sutton Coldfield in Bloom is as much about people as it is about plants. After the last couple of difficult years plenty of you spent a lot more time in your gardens, benefiting from being outside and doing something healthy.

Have you got a fabulous outdoor space you’ve created? A gorgeous garden, a beautiful balcony, or a pergola to be proud of? We’d love to see fabulous photos of all things green and gorgeous as well as outdoor structures, great and small.

Summer’s coming and we want to celebrate your efforts and see the spoils of your hard work which would contribute to Sutton Coldfield taking part in the annual Heart of England in Bloom competition.

The competition is free to enter and open to residents, businesses, schools and churches with prizes in two categories:

  1. Best Garden (any size, front, back or side)
  2. Something Small (hanging baskets, window boxes, planters)

It doesn’t matter whether you are an experienced gardener or a beginner – we’d love you to enter this year’s competition.

To enter, simply take a picture of your garden and email it to stating which category you would like to be assessed on. Closing date is 19th June and winners will be contacted week commencing 27th June. Photographs will be used for Town Council publications including our In Bloom portfolio.

Cheers as Four Oaks opens after facelift

The Four Oaks in Sutton Coldfield has reopened after a huge facelift

Upmarket features and outdoor dining featured in multi-million pound refit

A second pub in Sutton Coldfield has opened after undergoing a multi-million pound facelift, offering an upmarket feel and an extra bonus for electric car drivers.

Following the reopening of the former Blake Barn, the Four Oaks pub in is now open, with a remodelled and striking interior, beautiful outdoor spaces and an exceptional food offering that celebrates the very best of British produce.

Not only that, the pub also offers much-needed multiple electric car charging points on the car park for the convencience of the local community.

Sitting in a prime location next to Sutton Park and the historic four oak trees giving rise to its name, The Four Oaks pub has been radically transformed, both inside and out, to showcase an outstanding venue that provides the perfect setting for all social occasions all year round. The extensive restoration has also created 54 new jobs locally.

From its beautifully elevated main entrance to its stunning interiors, The Four Oaks pub has been extensively re-designed and every detail carefully re-imagined to create a hand-crafted feel to inspire and welcome its guests.

Internal features include a new walnut bar, blackened steel bar fonts and limestone flooring, offset with elegant velvet upholstery in earthy tones, and real oak. The impressive crittall wine room, raised private dining room and Scandi inspired spaces, with warming fires throughout, beautifully blend tradition with innovation to offer a relaxed and cosy environment.

Guests looking for an al-fresco spot to socialise with family and friends can choose to enjoy the terraced patio at the side of the pub or scandi-style garden at the rear of the pub, featuring fire pits and a fully-stocked outdoor bar.

Liam Smith, general manager at The Four Oaks, said: “We have created a beautiful and inviting space to welcome guests at any time of day – whether they’re joining us for brunch or for Sunday lunch after a family or dog walk in Sutton Park, or for an evening with friends. 

“With increased dining capacity for 180 guests inside and 100 outside, the food and drink offering at The Four Oaks showcases the best of British farms and vineyards and the new menu focused on outstanding food, from exceptional Sunday roasts to small plates and stix, perfect for shared grazing. There is an extensive selection of drinks, including special craft ales and lagers, classic and crafted cocktails, plus an array of non-alcoholic drinks. 

“We can’t wait to share our impressive new space with our surrounding community and look forward to welcoming our guests – both old and new – to The Four Oaks.”

For more information, please visit

New hospice boss springs into action

St Giles CEO joins hundreds of riders at charity cycle event

The new CEO at St Giles Hospice is starting as he means to go on after joining cyclists at the charity’s annual Cycle Spring fundraising bike ride on 8 May.

Interim Chief Executive Officer Andrew Harkness, a pharmacist and experienced NHS executive director, took up his new role this month and set off on the 77-mile cycle alongside St Giles’ Chair of The Board of Trustees, Robin Vickers.

He said that taking part in Cycle Spring was the perfect way to introduce himself to staff, volunteers and supporters, as well as play his part in helping to raise the vital funds needed each year to keep the hospice running.

“St Giles is a wonderful organisation and I’m honoured and delighted to have taken part in Cycle Spring in my new role as its CEO,” he said. “Our Cycle Spring and Autumn events play a huge part in raising the funds that St Giles needs to support its care services and as soon as I joined the hospice I wanted to join in and play my part. 

“Cycle Spring attracts hundreds of riders from across the region and I’d like to thank everyone who attended this year’s event. Its continuing success is down to the fantastic goodwill of our wonderful supporters and our dedicated hospice volunteers who turn out to help make sure that our events run like clockwork. 

“I thoroughly enjoyed my ride through the beautiful Staffordshire countryside and the community spirit of everyone involved was truly inspiring – I’m looking forward to taking part in more fundraising events over the coming months.”

Starting from 7.30am, 509 riders set off to enjoy one of three different routes through the countryside – with 27-mile, 50-mile, and 77-mile distances catering for cyclists of all ages and abilities. All of the rides began and ended at the Whittington hospice.

Zoe Wright, Events Manager at St Giles Hospice, said: “Cycle Spring had a fantastic atmosphere this year and it was great to see our new CEO getting involved. We were also heartened to watch everyone getting back in the saddle after having to cancel our events in 2020 and make changes in 2021 due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

“As usual, we couldn’t have done it without the expert help of Freedom Cycles, Rugeley Bicycle Repairs and BikeBOT who helped our riders to deal with any last-minute mechanical issues.”

She added that this year’s Cycle Spring has so far raised almost £35,000.

“If you weren’t able to make it to Cycle Spring this year – or enjoyed your ride so much that you want to take part again – then don’t forget to sign up for Cycle Autumn, which will be taking place on Sunday 11th September,” said Zoe.

“And if you are thinking of coming along we’d also ask you to consider raising sponsorship, as the entry fee only covers the event’s administration costs, so all funds raised on top of this make a real difference to the services we can provide for patients and their families who are living with a terminal illness. 

“A donation of £40 could pay for an hour of our advice and referrals team, £202 could pay for visits to a patient in their own home by our community nurses, and £676 could pay for 24 hours of hospice care for a patient at the end of their life.”

For more information about Cycle Autumn, please visit

New look as popular Sutton pub reopens

The Quill & Taper at Four Oaks opens on May 19
The newly revamped Quill & Taper at Four Oaks opens on May 19

Blake Barn becomes The Quill & Taper after major revamp

The manager of a popular pub in Sutton Coldfield which has undergone a huge facelift and a change name has promised customers a fantastic experience when it reopens this month.

The oddly-named Quill & Taper, formerly the Blake Barn in Four Oaks, has been closed for more than a month while the multi-million pound refit took place.

It opens official on May, but there will be a ‘soft’ reopening for invited guests a few days before with 50 per cent off food offered.

The Blake Barn before the major revamp

The pub says customers can expect crafted cask ales, alongside a dedicated shelf of malt whiskeys, gins and an extensive wine list and an extensive food menu.

There are limited slots for soft opening on Friday, May 13 and Sunday, May 15. To book online at

As well as the comprehensive interior revamp, the outside garden area has a new look with more chairs and tables and an upmarket atmosphere

Chris Todd, general manager, said: “We can’t wait to welcome guests to our pub after this incredible refurbishment. We want our guests to feel comfortable and happy during their visit to The Quill & Taper at Four Oaks, so our team has put a great level of detail into creating a friendly and inviting atmosphere.

“We have got an incredible range of refreshing new drinks and mouth-watering food options for guests to enjoy as they celebrate and toast to a fantastic summer ahead!”

Sutton Trust awards £133k to good causes

Mrs Jayne Luckett, Head Teacher at Deanery C.E. Primary School, a previous recipient

Eight initiatives in town to share windfall

A charitable trust in Sutton Coldfield, which has been in existence for almost 500 years, has revealed new beneficiaries who will share more than £133,000.

Sutton Coldfield Charitable Trust, which strives to improve the quality of life in Sutton Coldfield, has announced beneficiaries, with a total of £133,490 being awarded to Sutton Coldfield Grammar Schools for Girls, Walmley Tennis Club, Walmley Junior School, Salus Fatigue Foundation, Harvest Fields Community Centre, Town Junior School, Memory Café in Walmley and Sutton Coldfield Acoustic Guitar Club.

The funds will help towards a number of initiatives such as improving playing courts, equipment and venue hire space, as well as a ‘Daily Mile’ track creation for Town Junior School and funding local support for Salus Fatigue Foundation, to help sufferers of Chronic Fatigue Syndrome.

Over the past few years, the trust has granted well over £1,000,000 in grants to organisations and individuals across Sutton Coldfield, with plans to continue making vital improvements and helping those in need, in the area.

Tina Swani, chief executive of Sutton Coldfield Charitable Trust, said: “It’s always great to see the impact that our grants have on the local community. We’re dedicated to improving the quality of life in Sutton Coldfield and these grants will help to achieve that.”

David Cole, grants manager at Sutton Coldfield Charitable Trust, said: “We’re proud to support organisations and individuals in need of funds. For those who would like to apply for a grant, it must be for the benefit of residents and organisations within the Borough of Sutton Coldfield.

Sutton Coldfield Charitable Trust has awarded well over £1 million in grants

“For an individual, this can be anyone who is currently a resident in and has lived in one of the council wards of Birmingham City Council known as the Sutton Coldfield constituency for at least five years and is in need.”

“We’ve received a high volume of grant applications in the last year, which is the biggest the trust has ever seen, and we’re proud to have invested more than £423,000 in the past seven months, to support the local community.”

Sutton Coldfield Charitable Trust supports individuals in need by reason of youth, age, ill-health, disability, or other disadvantage, and anyone in these categories can make an application for items such as domestic equipment, further education, childcare costs, school clothing grants and to meet other needs.

The trust also provides school clothing grants, with application forms available through its website and uniforms can also be picked up from a local school. The closing date for receipt of applications is 12pm on Thursday 30 June 2022.

To find out more information about how to apply for a grant or Sutton Coldfield Charitable Trust, please visit: 

What is Sutton Coldfield Charitable Trust?

  • The principal objectives of the Trust are the provision of Almshouses, the distribution of funds and other measures for the alleviation of hardship and other needs for inhabitants and organisations within the boundaries of the former Borough of Sutton Coldfield.
  • The Trust’s origins can be traced back to Tudor times. Throughout a long history it has improved the lives of generations of people in Sutton Coldfield, particularly those in the greatest need.  It has sustained its core priority to alleviate suffering, while redefining and extending its benefits to reflect changing times and needs.

Get on your bikes to beat cancer


PEOPLE in Sutton Coldfield are being urged to get on their bikes for Cancer Research UK and raise money for a wheelie great cause.

People of all ages and abilities – from seasoned cyclists to recent converts – are being encouraged to sign up now for the Cycle 300 challenge to help the charity continue its life-saving mission.

Taking part needn’t feel like an uphill struggle when participants can choose how, when and where to clock up 300 miles during June – whether it’s 10 miles every day, 75 miles every weekend or all in one go.

Cycling to work, exploring the countryside and taking part in spin classes can all add up, along with ditching the car for a bike to pop to the shops. And with exercise bikes growing in popularity, it’s easy for homeworkers to get involved too.

The challenge can be completed indoors, outdoors, solo or as part of a team.

Not only will taking part help to raise vital funds, but there is also the added benefit of getting on a bike to keep fit and healthy. Depending on weight and effort, cyclists could burn roughly between 450 to 750 calories per hour.

Moderate exercise such as cycling can help build stamina and keep a healthy body weight, which reduces the risk of a range of diseases including cancer.

In the West Midlands region, around 34,000 people are diagnosed with cancer each year.* But, thanks to research, more people than ever across the UK are surviving for 10 years or more.

As Cancer Research UK celebrates its 20th anniversary, it is paying tribute to its supporters for the part they have played in this progress.

Paula Young, the charity’s spokesperson for the West Midlands, said: “One in two of us will get cancer in our lifetime.** But all of us can play a part to help beat it.

“For the past 20 years, the incredible generosity and commitment of people across Sutton Coldfield has helped Cancer Research UK make discoveries that have saved countless lives and which benefit millions of people around the world. But we have so much more to do.

“By taking part in Cycle 300 this June, commuters, weekend enthusiasts or gym bunnies alike can help the charity’s scientists go the distance and unlock new and better ways to beat the disease. We’ve come so far. And we will go much further. Together we will beat cancer.”

Last year, Cancer Research UK spent over £10 million in the West Midlands region on some of the UK’s leading scientific and clinical research.

Paula added: “Every day we see the benefits of research we’ve previously funded being realised, helping people live longer and healthier lives. That’s why we need cyclists across the region to help us keep investing in science today to deliver the treatments of tomorrow.”

Join the Cycle 300 challenge and receive a free fundraising pack at

4,000 trees planted at Sutton beauty spot

New trees to replace woodland felled in a controversial move last year have been planted by children at a Sutton Coldfield beauty spot. Trustees from Sutton Coldfield Charitable Trust have started the next phase of their plan to replant English deciduous broadleaved trees at Manorial Woods.

The move comes after a decision to fell and replace previous trees sparked anger among local residents last year but the trust says the move came after it sought specialist forestry advice over the past two to three years, which revealed that the previous crop of Corsican pine had reached its potential and would have gone into decline.

Tina Swani, Chief Executive of Sutton Coldfield Charitable Trust, Keith Dudley and Jane Mosson joined the planting of more than 4,000 trees at the site, assisted by children from Little Sutton Primary School, following the recently harvested Corsican Pine.

The entire site is due to be restocked with 4,500 trees of both UK-grown hardwoods and an intimate mix of conifers to aid the establishment of the crop. The next phase of planting will take place in May, ahead of the Queen’s Jubilee celebrations, where a central feature Yew Tree will be planted.

The trust will enlist the help of local schools again later in the year to help with a further phase of planting in the autumn. This aims to engage the local community in a project that will benefit Sutton Coldfield for generations to come.

Tina Swani said: “It’s hugely rewarding to see our long-held plans come to fruition at Manorial Wood, which will support a greater mix of woodland plants and wildlife. The previous Corsican Pine trees were in dire need of harvesting and replanting, due to the stock reaching its potential, lack of undergrowth and ongoing fire risk.”

“We are delighted that Little Sutton Primary School is involved, the woods are big part of the environment of Sutton and what a way to get the next generation involved in helping to improve the future of the town.”

Rachel Davis, headteacher at Little Sutton Primary School, said: “We are very excited about being part of a project to plant 4,500 trees that will create a broad-leaved, biodiverse woodland to benefit generations to come. 

“At Little Sutton we feel it is really important to prepare our pupils to be good citizens, so we work hard to instil positive values and opportunities for them to make an impact in our community. Our pupils are passionate about playing their part in making the world a better place, and this fantastic project will enable them to do this by looking after the local environment.”

An environmentally sustainable approach is being taken at Manorial Wood that includes biodegradable tree protectors being used, instead of plastic, to prevent damage from small animals as the trees become established.

To find out more information about Manorial Woods or Sutton Coldfield Charitable Trust, please visit: 

Easter but not as we know it

Spring on the beaches of Larnaca

A week later, but an amazing Greek celebration

Greek Easter this year is the week after English Easter and to celebration this wonderful event in charming Cyprus (22 -24 April), hotels in and around Larnaka and local establishments serving food, are offering visitors and locals something extra. Sample the festivities as the local Cypriots celebrate the end of fasting and the Resurrection of Christ.

Attend evening mass at any one of the famous churches in Larnaka where the priest passes the candle of eternal life from person to person. The most impressive of all is Saint Lazarus, a stunning stone built Byzantine church with its domed architecture and ornate icons. Next to the church is the Byzantine Museum, which exhibits important religious icons, artefacts and relics.

The historic St Lazarus Church in Larnaca and below Cypriot Easter treats

It is considered good luck to arrive home with your candle still alight and then to trace soot in the shape of a cross above the door.  Afterwards, visitors return to a restaurant and if staying at a hotel,  the traditional Easter meal of ‘Magiritsa Soup’ (chef’s soup), accompanied by hard boiled eggs which have been dyed bright red, flaounes (a cheese with raisin pasty) and tsourekia (sweet milk bread also adorned with the brightly coloured boiled egg) is served.

It is also a Cypriot tradition to signify the breaking of fasting for family members to hold a dyed red egg in their hand and attempt to crack one against that of another member of the family.  The owner of the last unbroken egg is declared the winner!  

Cypriot chefs and cooks conjure up a memorable traditional Easter dishes served on Easter Sunday (April 24) followed by more specialities on Easter Monday! The island can also be enjoyed for its customs and wonderfully warm temperatures, on average 24 C.

A seven- night break in April to experience Greek Easter but not as we know it, has prices staring from £779 per adult for two sharing a room on bed and breakfast at the 5-star Golden Bay Beach Hotel, including return flights from Gatwick to Larnaka ( departing 21 April 2022, returning 28 April 2022), transfers and accommodation.

This luxury hotel has elegant gardens punctuated by tall palm trees bordering a long stretch of sandy beach, offering a range of stylish rooms and 4 restaurants with a great selection of Cypriot specialities! For reservations contact AITO specialist, luxury tour operator Planet Holidays on 01438 841 270 or visit For more general information on Larnaka  and district contact Larnaka Tourism at or for general information on Cyprus, visit Cyprus Tourism Organisation

Range anxiety puts damper on holiday break

 A thought-provoking journey in an electric car

They call it range anxiety, but at times it can feel like range despair. Range anxiety is the fear that there will not be enough power in the battery of our electric vehicle to get to your destination. Something that happened on a trip to the Lake District, writes Bill McCarthy.

Range anxiety has been around since modern electric cars first hit the road in the shape of the Nissan Leaf.

I drove one of those around 11 years ago, to a football match dur- ing the cold and rain and left again in the dark.

It was not fully topped up, but the range was showing 64 miles, to cover a round trip of 24, but with the lights, wipers and heater drawing the power, just one mile was showing on the range when we got home. That’s range anxiety.

More than 10 years on battery life has improved immeasurably, with some models boasting a range of around 350 miles, enough for most journeys.

And the costs benefits are obvi- ous, particularly with spiralling fuel charges.

They are still not cheap to buy, even with the Government EV grant. But if you do decide to go electric, everything is cheaper with zero road tax and the lowest Benefit in Kind ratings if you are a compa- ny car driver. There are of course costs to your electric bill but these are outweighed by savings on petrol and diesel.

But there’s still range anxiety.

This is despite the increase in the number of charging points at service stations and their fast-charging facilities which will deliver an 80 per cent charge in around 20 minutes.

Which is great if you are not in the queue to use one which, as it turned out, was quite often in a journey from hell to the Lake Dis- trict.

It was a bit of a dilemma, should we take a relatively untried model with a claimed range of 195 miles on a proposed round trip of 450 miles? What better way to test it I thought. Well it was a test all right,

Some careful planning was needed. Yes, there were several charging points at motorway services right up to Lakeland itself.

So a quick top up to 80 per cent range on one of the latest fast chargers at an M6 service station around half way should do the trick, before completing the 190-odd mile journey to our destination.

We were also aware that once inside Britain’s biggest and arguably most beautiful national park,

Finding a charging point can sometimes prove to be a headache and charging points would be far less frequent. So a few were pinpointed, just in case.

Well you know what they say about the best-laid plans.

The minute we hit the motorway the heavens opened. At this point the range was showing 140 miles, but once the wipers, lights and demister came on, and travelling at above 60mph, the power meter headed south in a big way and guess what? Range anxiety set in.

Two M6 services stop offs were needed. The 100kW fast chargers are easy to use. Just plug it in, show your credit/debit card and within 20 to 30 minutes you will have at least an 80 per cent charge.

The second stop was nearer our destination as the range was again plunging alarmingly, but there were problems with charging. One station was out of action and the other would not charge until the car next to me had finished.

All this added to journey time and a growing sense of frustration and trepidation.

By the time we got off the motorway, it was getting dark and still raining heavily with about 60 miles to our destination and the predicted range dropping relentlessly.

Ninety buttock-clenching minutes later we arrived, with a range of just under 40 miles showing. So what next?

The Lake District EV infrastructure is patchy to say the least. So we had to spend our second, and only full day, planning how to charge up. We found one place at a hotel that was free, but out of action. Again range anxiety.

Helped out by a friendly campsite owner

However, it was a beautiful day and where we were staying had spectacular views across the western lakes and fells. So we pretty much stayed put and approached a friendly campsite owner who agreed to let us use our three-pin trickle charger overnight.

That can give a full charge, but takes up to 15 hours from flat. However, ready to journey back the next morning, we had a full charge.

The return journey pretty much mirrored the first. Driving rain, multiple charging stops and problems finding unoccupied charging points and, yes, arriving with about 40 miles range left. One thing this trip has shown is that just like petrol or diesel motors, fuel figures take a battering when cold, electrical components and speed come into play.

With combustion engines, however, filling stations – even in the Lake District – are plentiful. Not so with charging points and the same applies to most rural areas. Electric cars are seeing rapidly growing sales and are widely perceived as the future of emissions-free motoring, with combustion engines are due to be phased out by 2030 and hybrids by 2035.

Hopefully, by then, range anxiety and infrastructure problems will be a distant memory.

Even with the current energy crisis, EVs remain cheaper to run than combustion engines. I have driven many electric cars and no matter what the predicted range is, you cannot stop yourself keeping an eye on the range.

It is the first time I have driven one this far, in such awful conditions, and it will be a rare occurrence for most. But for those using it for work and travelling the country, it needs careful consideration before taking the plunge.

Splash of colour for hospice fundraiser

Husband of St Giles patient urges people to join in Orange Week fun

A dad whose wife spent her final days in St Giles Hospice is calling on people to get up and go orange for the charity’s Orange Week fundraiser this April.

Gareth Hine’s wife, Karen, aged 49, who had bowel cancer which had spread to her lymph nodes, died at St Giles in August 2021, following nine months of care from the hospice.

Now Gareth, aged 50, who has two sons, is urging people to join the colourful annual campaign at home, work or school to help raise funds to ensure that St Giles can continue providing care and support for local patients, and their families, living with a terminal illness.

During Orange Week, taking place between Monday, 25th April and Sunday, 1st May, everyone is invited to raise money by going orange for a day or even a whole week or by taking part in orange-themed activities to support the hospice.

Sales director Gareth said: “Orange Week is a fantastic idea which gives everyone a great way to get involved in raising funds for St Giles – whether they are individuals, local businesses, clubs or other organisations. This fun event is about pulling together as a community to celebrate and support this vital service for local people and I would encourage everybody to sign up and take part if they can.

“St Giles provides the sort of personal, specialised care that is remarkable. We should do everything we can to make sure that the hospice is here for other families just like ours in the future when they need it.”

Gareth, from Cannock, said that despite being initially reluctant to agree to hospice care, Karen immediately responded to the supportive environment at St Giles. 

He added: “When Karen arrived at St Giles she was immediately given pain management support and it was just what she needed. We knew that she was getting the sort of care she wouldn’t be able to get anywhere else – it was truly unique and we were all so thankful. The staff are caring and go above and beyond the call of duty to support the families they look after.

“The nurses knew the family were all Aston Villa season ticket holders and they asked the club if they could do anything for the children. The kids were then presented with a Villa shirt signed by the team, which was so kind and thoughtful. My sons were over the moon and it is the little things like that which make things more bearable for them.

“At a time in her life when Karen felt she had nowhere else to turn we found St Giles and it made such a difference – it’s just an amazing place.”

Gareth and his sons received bereavement support from the hospice team during his wife’s final days to prepare them for their loss. Following her death, donations from Karen’s funeral went to St Giles and Karen’s brother, Stephen Smith, took part in Cycle Autumn in 2021 to thank St Giles for caring for his sister. 

In total, the family have raised more than £5,000 to support the hospice.

Chloe Herbert, Head of Fundraising at St Giles, said: “The generosity of fundraisers like Gareth and his family – and the people who take part in events like Orange Week – makes a huge difference to the work that we can do, as it costs £850,000 every single month just to keep our services going.

“Whether you’re at home, work or school, getting involved with Orange Week couldn’t be simpler. You could get up and go orange for a day or week, rock your brightest orange outfit, throw an orange themed party, or bake some tasty orange treats – and you can request our fantastic free fundraising pack for further ideas.

“Just remember to donate to St Giles at the same time and share your pictures on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram and LinkedIn with the hashtag #OrangeWeek to share the fun.”

For further information, or to request your free fundraising pack, visit