All posts by Macfivenews

Motoring and travel journalist, opinionated gob on a stick

Splash of colour for new restaurant

These colourful pictures show the inside of Sutton Coldfield’s newest restaurant which has open-end in Mere Green.

The new Thai tapas-style restaurant, Giggling Squid, took over from a former Italian restaurant in Mulberry Walk, and opened to the public on July 26 and is already proving popular with its novel cuisine.

The Giggling Squid chain, began in the basement of a fishmerman’s cottage in Brighton in 2002 and has grown since then, operating at 38 venues across the UK.

Big thank-you to charity fundraisers

Support is appreciated. St Giles Hospice Ward Sister Ruth Abell marks the achievemen

St Giles summer raffle raises £87,000

St Giles Hospice has thanked people in the community for their generous support after its summer raffle raised more than £87,000 – one of its best-ever totals.

The money raised will be used to support the care of patients and their families living with a terminal illness.

Elinor Eustace, Income Generation Director at St Giles Hospice, said: “Once again our dedicated supporters have overwhelmed us with their kindness by playing our summer raffle and making additional donations on top of their ticket purchases.

“We’ve never needed our community more than we have done over the last 18 months. They have really stepped up with their amazing support, at a time when everyone has also been coping with the COVID-19 pandemic.

“We had to temporarily close our charity shops and cancel our fundraising events during the lockdowns so our raffles have become more vital than ever in supporting our care services. The £87,000 raised will help to ensure that St Giles can be there for our patients in the local community and their families when they need us the most.”

Claire Barton and her sister Melanie Floyd, from Lichfield, helped St Giles to promote this summer’s raffle to thank the hospice for looking after their father David ‘Chas’ Chandler.

Musician Chas was supported for at home for six months by the St Giles community nurse team before he was admitted to the hospice for end of life care in November 2019.

Claire said: “We would like to say a huge thank you to everyone who supported the summer raffle this year. Your generosity will make a huge difference to local patients and their families at a time when they need the hospice’s support the most.

“At any moment you could find out that a family member or a friend needs the care of St Giles and we want to ensure that it is there in future for families like ours.”

Prizes in this year’s summer raffle included a jackpot of £8,000, a second prize of £2,000 and other cash prizes.

The £8,000 jackpot prize winner, Miss M from Lichfield, who has chosen to remain anonymous, said: “I felt completely overwhelmed when I received a call from St Giles to tell me I had won first prize in the raffle! I was speechless. How unexpected and what an incredible thing to happen from supporting the charity in a small way. 

“Donations I have made to the hospice came through knowing a very special person whose amazing spirit lives on through many. Thank you for all that you do St Giles.”

The other top five prize winners came from Burton, Sutton Coldfield, Tamworth and Swadlincote.

St Giles runs two raffles each year in addition to the weekly lottery, providing vital income for the hospice. It costs more than £10 million to provide the care St Giles offers every year and the hospice needs to raise £850,000 each month to keep its services going.

For more information about St Giles Hospice and the expert care it provides, please visit www.stgileshospice.com

Return of the Supra legend

Toyota Supra GR

By Bill McCarthy

WHEN it comes to show-stopping cars, a few names spring to mind. But for the majority of people, I bet Toyota isn’t one of them.

They would be wrong. The Supra is a bit of a legend with enthusiasts, but has been absent from the roads for a good while.

So the gleaming and sporty looking hunk of metal parked on the drive took a few people by surprise, even a local lad who knocked to door to ask if he could take pictures

The initial four generations of the Supra were produced from 1978 to 2002. This fifth generation has been on sale in May 2019 in three litre form, with this two-litre model on sale from January this year.

The first global GR model from Toyota Gazoo Racing, (hence GR), which the firm says was conceived as a sports car in its purest form, with no compromise

With the focus on all things electric at the moment, the Supra blends performance, agility and velcro-like grip with a choice of a three litre V6 or the two litre model here, both mated with an eight speed auto gearbox. The firm is right, it looks every inch a sports car.

Priced from £45,995 it was developed in collaboration with BMW, and shares much of its underpinnings with the German firm’s Z4.

It does look stunning, with its short wheelbase and wide stance, the long bonnet, double bubble roof, muscular rear haunches and neat spoiler.

Add to this the slim headlights, huge air scoops, and preatory looking low-to-the ground stance, it is neatly finished off with striking 18-inch alloys wheels, and visible high-performance Brembo brakes.

The two-litre driven here offers model-specific Pro specification, with standard features including those 18-inch alloys, a four-speaker 100W audio system with 8.8-inch touchscreen display, cruise control, automatic headlights and wipers, smart entry and start and heated and powered GR sports seats upholstered in black Alcantara.

The centrepiece touchscreen controls most functions, including navigation and smartphone connectivity and can be controlled via touch or a rotor knob, while the interior is classy and well equipped. In true two-seater style, entry and exit is a bit of an art form, but worth the contortions for the  sheer pleasure of driving the car. 

Performance isn’t class leading, but hitting 60 mph in a smidge of five seconds is not too shabby either. The three litre is around a second quicker.

But it’s not just about the raw speed off the mark. Handling is a delight, and while the four cylinder engine does not develop the throaty roar of a V6, there is a sporty rasp when accelerating hard, which is just as satisfying.

Maximum power is 254bhp with high levels of torque peaking at 400Nm, so it just keeps pulling hard through the gears.

It feels hugely stable, with its active differential, which can identify the road conditions, calculate the optimum locking degree, and activate the lock accordingly.

That operates both when accelerating and decelerating and can seamlessly adjust from zero to full, 100 per cent lock, with instant response.

In addition adaptive suspension and stability and traction programmes help keep the car safe even when the driver cannot.

In practice, it clings limpet like to the road, with sharp bends dismissed with ease and delivers even harder grip when accelerating out of bends, to deliver a hugely satisfying drive.

The power on tap does not mean the car is thirsty. Official economy of approaching 40mpg is pretty impressive.

It’s a two seater, so practicality is not going to be a top priority, but there is enough space in the boot for a couple of small suitcases.

Safety kit is also comprehensive with multiple airbags, a pre-collision safety system with braking function, pedestrian and cyclist detection with braking function, and lane departure warning.

Icon is a much overused word, but the Supra really does deserve that status and is a welcome return to UK roads. It looks great and is a brilliant drive.

Factfile

Toyota Supra GR 2.0 Pro

Price: £46,995

Mechanical: 254bhp, 1998cc, 4-cylinder, petrol engine driving rear wheels via eight-speed manual transmission

Max Speed: 155mph

0-62mph: 5.2 seconds

Combined MPG: 38.7

Insurance Group: 34e

C02 emissions: 167g/km

Warranty: 5yrs/100,000 miles

Lidl Store to support food charities

Special offers for opening week

Lidl GB has confirmed that its new supermarket in Mere Green, Sutton Coldfield, will provide surplus food for local food banks after the store opens this Thursday, August 5.

The new store will be providing surplus produce and customer donations to local charities, including Sutton Coldfield United Reformed Church and Hope Food who run food banks to help those in need, as well as Help to Make Tummies Full, who redistribute surplus food to prevent local children from going hungry.

This is delivered through Lidl’s Feed it Back scheme, which is run in partnership with Neighbourly and connects Lidl stores up and down the country with local charities, foodbanks, community cafes and kitchens, putting quality food surplus to good use every day.

The store has also said that it recommends the wearing of face coverings and will provide hand sanitisation for the foreseeable future.

During the first week of opening customers will be able to find exclusive deals and offers on selected products including a Tri Scooter with LED wheels (£8.99) on opening day, a Foot Spa Medisana (£9.99) the following day and a Record Player Dual (£44.99) on Saturday 7 August.

Part of the company’s ongoing £1.3bn expansion and regeneration plans across Great Britain for 2021 and 2022, the store will create around 40 new jobs for the local community. 

The new electric car charging station at Lidl

The store, which will provide electric car charging stations, said opening times will be between 8am – 10pm Monday to Saturday, and 10am – 4pm on Sunday, delivering Lidl’s offering of fresh, quality and great value produce. 

As well as being fitted with solar panels to help power the store, the supermarket will also have facilities such as an 1325m² sales area, an instore bakery, customer toilet and 124 car parking spaces, including 2 electric vehicle charging spaces.

Lidl GB’s Regional Head of Property, Rachel Hargreaves, commented: “We would like to thank all those who have played a part in bringing this new Lidl store to Mere Green.

“It is fantastic that we are able to continue our investment in Birmingham, enabling even more of the local community access to our multi-award winning products. We are delighted to be able to create more jobs and investment opportunities in the area and look forward to welcoming everyone to our new store.”

Cupra has new SEAT at luxury table

It may have slipped people’s notice with the pandemic going on that a new, well newish, car brand has appeared.

Cupra is a name well-known to SEAT enthusiasts and was the badge given to more sporting models, being a combination of Cup and Racing, ergo Cupra.

Now, a bit like DS with Citroen, it has split and become a brand of its own, while remaining part of SEAT, and as the new kid on the block, offering a shiny new badge.

It has become unashamedly high end and sporty and the firm has announced a number of updates for the 2022 model. And with the curiously named all-electric Born on the horizon, it ticks most boxes for drive options.

There are four models which Cupra showcased on a driving event, the Cupra Ateca, Cupra Leon hatch and estate and the Formentor SUV.

It is fair to say that the Spanish firm’s sporty tradition is in safe hands with Cupra as all feature sharp, angular styling, distinctive alloy wheels and striking light clusters. Interiors are classy and the car delivers the kind of drive you would expect from Cupra.

I drove four of the vehicles, the Formentor 1.5 TSI V2 150PS DSG, pretty much the entry level for this model and featuring a  150PS 1.5 TSI petrol engine and capable of hitting 60mph in a smidge under nine seconds.

 This was followed by the all wheel drive powerhouse Leon Estate 2.0 TSI. Priced at 40,535, the 310PS two litre power unit here propels the car to 60mph in just under five seconds, while still delivering economy in the mid-30s mpg. 

Next up, the same power in the SUV Formentor, just over £100 more expensive, at £40,620, with virtually identical performance, but as its a heavier car, a slight drop in economy into the lower 30s mpg.

Last up was the Leon hatchback, priced at £36,760 and again delivering hot performance.

This time the two litre unit develops 300PS  and hits 60 in 5.7 seconds with economy in the mid to late 30s mpg.

Even the entry level at a little over £31k offers a comprehensive list of standard kit while still delivering an excellent drive.

In true SEAT style all offer hot performance while the 310PS models, particularly when mated to the four wheel drive, offer exhilarating performance.

The separation looks to be a shrewd move by the VW-owned Spanish firm, offering traditional SEAT sporty performance, but now with an altogether more upmarket feel, while the Cupra badge is stylish enough to rouse people’s curiosity.

All variants of the Leon and Formentor equipped with a DSG-auto gearbox also get a heated steering wheel as standard, while on the Formentor an electric tailgate is now an available option on V1 and V2 trims, and a top view camera can be added to the VZ2 and VZ3 trims.

Prices for the CUPRA Leon start at £31,555 for the Leon hatch VZ1 trim 2.0-litre TSI 245ps DSG-auto and rise to £40,535 for the range-topping Leon Estate VZ3 2.0-litre TSI 310ps DSG-auto 4Drive.

Formentor prices start at £27,745 OTR for V1 1.5-litre TSI 150ps, rising to £42,990 OTR for VZ3 2.0-litre TSI 310ps DSG-auto 4Drive.

Opening date for store

The new store nears completion and will feature a rapid charging point in the car park

Lidl announces August 5 opening

Discount grocer Lidl has confirmed that its new store in Mere Green will open on August 5. The German-owned giant will provide competition for Sainsbury’s, Marks & Spencer and Poundland in the area.

A new Aldi is also planned for the former Waitrose on Belwell Lane.

Around 40 jobs, both full and part-time, will be created at the new Sutton Coldfield store and the news comes after a new Thai tapas style restaurant, the Giggling Squid, opened this week (July 26).

Workers are rushing to complete inside of the store and the car park will see the first rapid electric car charging point on the car park.

A Lidl spokesman said: “Once opened, the store will create around 40 full and part time jobs for the local area and we look forward to delivering our fresh, quality and affordable produce to the local community.”

The new supermarket is on the site of the former industrial premises in Mere Green Road, which has lain derelict for more than 10 years.

The store has not met with universal approval with fears of traffic chaos.

It does seem inevitable there will be a big increase in traffic on the busy stretch of road, with Mulberry Walk fully open with gym, shops, bars and restaurants. With a busy garage also at Mere Green island, it looks like delays will be on the way.

The Giggling Squid has opened with discounted prices for a limited time. For booking info, visit the new website at https://www.gigglingsquid.com/restaurant/mere-green/

Hokey Cokey for hospitality in Sutton

It’s becoming a bit like the hokey cokey for hospitality venues in Sutton Coldfield. They’re in, they’re out, then they’re back in again and who knows, maybe out again?

The Butlers Arms on Lichfield Road only reopened last weekend after the pub closed due to Covid-19 and The Bracebridge in Sutton Park was also forced to close its doors until July 24 for the same reason.

Now another popular venue, the Farmhouse Bistro at the Mitchell Centre on Weeford Road, has been forced to close and in another development, Mocha Coffee Lounge in Streetly has done the same.

A message on the Farmhouse Bistro website made this announcement: “We regret that the Bistro is now closed for a few days due to enforced staff isolation. We thank you for your understanding and look forward to seeing you again soon. Watch this space for an announcement on reopening”

The Mocha Lounge also added a similar message on Facebook.

It would appear that this is going to be a running theme. There are reports that a popular hospitality venue in Sutton Coldfield has told staff, via a memo, that if they attend a nightclub, they should not return to work for at least three days to try and prevent infections.

Red letter day on climate change

Wednesday 21st July, 2021

Andrew Mitchell talks to pupils at Hill West Primary, watched by headteacher Dr Beth Clarke

MP visits after children write to PM

Sutton Coldfield youngsters have taken their concerns over climate change to the very top of the UK Government.

Year 5 children at Hill West Primary School felt so strongly about the issues, that they wrote to the Prime Minister, asking him to uphold his responsibilities as a Duty Bearer to take positive action to support the rights of children around the world.

The school has since received a letter of thanks from Number 10 Downing Street.

As a result, pupils and staff welcomed Sutton Coldfield MP Andrew Mitchell to the school in response to children’s handwritten letters to Boris Johnson.

Mr Mitchell visited the school after he passed on the letters – which focused on climate change and the impact on children’s rights globally – to Prime Minister Boris Johnson.

The MP joined pupils and staff at the school on Friday 16 July to talk about a range of topics, including the UNICEF Outright campaign, which looks at how climate change can impact negatively on children’s rights, and supports children to voice their views.

The letters were initially sent to Mr Mitchell, as he is both their constituency MP and also has a strong record of campaigning for the rights of people around the world, with pupils asking him if he would consider forwarding them to the Prime Minister.

Acting deputy headteacher, Rhian Warrack said: “We were thrilled to learn that Mr Mitchell did support the rights of the children at Hill West to express their views and opinions, and to have their voices listened to, as he forwarded their letters to the Prime Minister in early July.

Acting deputy headteacher, Rhian Warrack, right, next to Andrew Mitchell and headteacher Dr Clarke and pupils from year 5,

“We were absolutely delighted to then be contacted by Mr Mitchell, asking if he could come to Hill West and meet some of the children who had written letters, and we welcomed him in school on a beautiful sunny afternoon.”

Hill West Primary School, part of the Arthur Terry Learning Partnership, is working towards the UNICEF Rights Respecting School Gold Award. Mr Mitchell spoke to the children about a range of subjects, sharing some of his experience of supporting human rights during his career.

The children asked insightful questions on matters including climate change and how Mr Mitchell has been supporting those living in poverty in the UK, especially during the pandemic. Pupils also asked how the MP and the government are supporting children’s right to a high quality education now and moving forwards after COVID.

The children were interested in why and how Mr Mitchell became a Member of Parliament. They heard about the work he has been doing to try and prevent the government from reducing the International Development Budget, and his decision to keep Sutton Park open during the pandemic.

Dr Warrack added: “The children relished their opportunity to express their views and feelings in all matters affecting them to their Member of Parliament and to have Mr Mitchell take them seriously. They are also extremely grateful for his support in putting their views forward to our Prime Minister and sincerely hope that they are taken seriously by Boris Johnson, as they have been by Mr Mitchell, so that they can have a positive impact on children’s rights, both here in Sutton Coldfield, the UK, and around the world.”

Mr Mitchell said: “It was wonderful to meet the pupils and staff at Hill West and to learn more about their work with UNICEF’s ‘Rights Respecting Schools’ and ‘Outright’ campaigns. I was very impressed with their letters – huge congratulations to the children for all their hard work and tenacity. These future citizens care about the rights of all children globally and are empowered to instigate change by using their collective voice.

“The pupils are politically and environmentally aware, so it was an excellent opportunity to talk to them about politics, the world they live in and the issues that impact them and others across the world. There is no doubt that we have some young leaders in our midst.”

Pedal power for hospice

David Batchelor (front left) and Stuart Payne (front right) with members of the team
FUNDRAISERS HIT THE ROAD FOR 210-MILE CYCLE RIDE TO SUPPORT ST GILES

Fifteen fundraising cyclists have raised £16,000 to be split between St Giles Hospice and three other charities in an epic three-day bike ride through the heart of England.

The riders all work for Wills & Trusts Wealth Management Group, which organised the trip to support its charitable foundation.

Wills & Trusts Chief Operating Officer, Stuart Payne, from Sutton Coldfield, took part in the 210-mile ride and has a personal connection to St Giles Hospice as his father-in-law, John Simpson, received end-of-life care at St Giles Hospice in 2018.

He said: “The care my late father-in-law received at St Giles was just tremendous – I cannot praise the team there highly enough, whether it is for the way they looked after him in his last days or the support they offered to the rest of the family. They have such a wonderful bedside manner.

“We all know how hard charities have been hit by the COVID-19 pandemic, so supporting hospice care along the way seemed like a great way to make a difference on our cycling challenge. 

“We came up with the idea of the bike ride as things opened up again after lockdown. For the past year our Wills & Trusts team has been forced to work from home due to Government guidance, so this cycle trip seemed like a great way to bring everyone back together and get the team bonding again.”

The team’s route took them from the company’s office in Ashby-de-la-Zouch to its head office in Thame, near Oxford, visiting its other offices along the way on a route through Henley-in-Arden, Moreton-in-Marsh and Winchester. 

The money raised will be split between St Giles Hospice, Florence Nightingale Hospice in Aylesbury, Helen & Douglas House Children’s Hospice in Oxford and Winchester Hospice, four hospices based near the company’s offices.

Wills & Trusts Wealth Management Group founder David Batchelor said: “In our business we help families to plan for the future, whether it’s planning for retirement or passing money down. We help people to prepare for all of the different journeys through life and inevitably hospice care is a part of some of those journeys, so raising money to support our local hospices made perfect sense to us.

“Our team included both serious riders and people who had not been out on a bike until six weeks ago, and their dedication and determination has been matched by the generosity of our supporters and donors who have helped us to race past our £10,000 target and raise this fantastic total.”

St Giles Hospice Income Generation Director, Elinor Eustace, said: “We are so grateful to the team at Wills & Trusts Wealth Management Group for their amazing fundraising effort, which will help to support the care we offer to patients and their families living with a terminal illness.

“Their dedication and hard work are truly an inspiration to us at a time when we have never needed our community more, following 18 months when we have had to close our shops and cancel fundraising events due to the pandemic. If any other businesses would be interested in helping St Giles then we’d be delighted to hear from them.”

For more information about St Giles Hospice and the expert care it provides, please visit www.stgileshospice.com

Jobs boost with double opening

Restaurant and store to open in Mere Green

With the hospitality industry still struggling with closures due to Covid infections, there will be a double opening to lift the gloom in the next couple of weeks with a new store and restaurant creating jobs in Mere Green.

Discount grocer Lidl has confirmed that around 40 jobs, both full and part-time, will be created at its new Sutton Coldfield store when it finally opens at the end of this month and a new Thai tapas style restaurant, the Giggling Squid, opens its doors next week.

Workers are busy working on the inside of the store, with completion set to be imminent while the finishing touches are being put to the Giggling Squid venue prior to its opening on Mulberry Walk.

A Lidl spokesman said: “Once opened, the store will create around 40 full and part time jobs for the local area and we look forward to delivering our fresh, quality and affordable produce to the local community.”

The Giggling Squid is opening with celebratory offers. Bookings are now open and diners will be notified the moment bookings go live for the opening week which includes a celebratory 50 per cent off all meals. For booking info, visit the new website at https://www.gigglingsquid.com/restaurant/mere-green/