Category Archives: Lifestyle

CHEERS! NEW MERE GREEN BOOZER OPENS DOORS

The impressively laid out bar area at the new Ale Hub in Mere Green

Sutton’s newest drinks venue pulls in the punters

‘People have been really welcoming to us and we have had a really successful opening day.’

Those are the words of the manager of Sutton Coldfield’s newest pub, which opened its doors on December 2.

A tiny yet welcoming atmosphere awaits ale enthusiasts at the tiny, but impressively laid out  micropub.

Locals enjoy a drink at the packed venue on Hill Village Road

Run by the McDiarmid family, it will be their fourth Ale Hub and manager Dan Truepenny says he has no doubt it will be a success.

He said: “It is our first pub on a main road and the feedback we have had so far has been really positive.

“People have been very keen to welcome us and we offer something that is pretty unique in this area.”

There was standing room only on the opening night and locals welcomed the fact that its specialises in real ales.

It is small with around 12 tables, but people spending their first evening there were able to do what the owners had planned for the venue.

That was to be able to socialise and enjoy good ales with just background music as the only distraction.
The former premises of Garner Canning Solicitors on Hill Village Road will add more variation to the already vibrant food and drink scene.

The owners said they have a love of real ale and their aim is to help to revitalise the local pub scene and provide the community with a choice of refreshing and well-kept drinks in a relaxed and friendly environment.

New hotels on Larnaka horizon

A host of new hotels are on the horizon for the Larnaka region of Cyprus – including resort hotels, boutique establishments and even lodgings in historic, listed buildings, expanding the choice of accommodation available to visitors.

At present, there are 25 applications approved or under consideration across the city centre and beyond, whilst several units already under construction will soon be opening their doors to welcome their first visitors.

In particular, the Voroklini-Pyla coastal area (also known as Larnaka-Dekeleia Road) is seeing a luxury resort boom along its strip, starting with the 2022 season openings of the Radisson Beach Resort Larnaca and the Solaar Boutique Hotel.

The 5-star Radisson Beach Resort Larnaca will have a 404-bed capacity and rooms with private pools, a spa, four food and beverage outlets and event venues.

The Solaar Boutique Hotel & Spa (where the former Michael’s hotel stood) will have a 114-bed capacity, three private villas, luxury spa, rooftop restaurant and conference room with sea views.

Another three deluxe establishments along the same strip are in the approval process pipeline; a four-star hotel with apartments on the site of the former Beau Rivage Hotel; an adjacent five-star complex, and a further luxury hotel east of Golden Bay Beach Hotel. The addition of further high-star hotels along this particular area of the coastal road will also tie in with the area’s upgrading and further new development following the removal of the oil refinery tanks.

The beauty of accommodation in Larnaka region has always been its diversity, and with the increase in hotel units continuing to provide a balanced mixture of grand resorts for luxury laid-back relaxation, and quirky city establishments for the traveller who likes to explore, visitors are sure to find somewhere that is perfect for their ideal holiday!

For more information visit https://larnakaregion.com

Fundraisers on the run at castle

Fun begins with St Giles Hospice Rudolph Run

Fundraisers are being invited to spread a little Christmas cheer and kick off their festive fun as the St Giles Hospice Rudolph Run makes a welcome return to Tamworth Castle next month (December).

Runners, walkers, teams of friends and families – and their four-legged friends – will be able to take part in the popular festive fundraising event either in Tamworth Castle Grounds on Sunday, 5th December, or in their own local area.

The annual Rudolph Run was cancelled last year (2020) because of the COVID-19 pandemic, with supporters taking part in their local area instead. Rudolph Run Your Way proved so popular that it is being offered as an option this year as well.

This year’s Rudolph Run hopes to see hundreds of supporters – many in fancy dress – stepping out to help St Giles Hospice, which cares for local people and their families living with a terminal illness.

St Giles Hospice Events Manager Zoe Wright said the Rudolph Run is a fun-packed event suitable for all the family, including pet dogs, and with either a 3km or 6km route to run or walk, there is something for people of all abilities.

“Everyone at St Giles loves the Rudolph Run,” said Zoe. “For us – and for our loyal fundraisers who come back year after year – it marks the true start of Christmas. It’s a colourful, festive event, which never fails to get people in the Yuletide spirit and adds to the seasonal sparkle – and by raising sponsorship as well as dressing up and having fun you can make a real difference for the families who need us most.

“So many people who take part love to dress up, and they put so much effort into their fantastic costumes. Each year we see whole families and teams of friends or co-workers coming along dressed as Christmas trees, reindeer, elves and snowmen, which really adds to the fun.  So join us in your Christmas jumper, support us dressed as Santa or enjoy an adventure in your antlers at our 13th annual Rudolph Run!; 

“If you’re unable to join us at Tamworth Castle, you can still take part in your own time. Simply spread some festive cheer in your Christmas gear around your local area as we did last year – taking on Rudolph Run “Your Way” anytime between Friday 3rd and Sunday 5th December.”

Over the last 12 years, the St Giles Hospice Rudolph Run has raised a staggering £83,000 to help care for local people, and their families.

Zoe added: “We’d love to say a huge thank you to everyone who takes part each year. We simply couldn’t do what we do without your support. Your entry fee covers the administration cost of the event, but it would make a huge difference if you could raise sponsorship too.

“With only a third of our income funded by the Government, your support really is crucial in helping us deliver our care – especially at this time of year, when we are helping families who may be facing their last Christmas together and trying to make it as special as possible for them.”

A donation of £40 to St Giles could pay for one hour of the hospice’s Advice and Referrals team. A donation of £202 could pay for visits to a patient in their own home by St Giles community nurses, and £676 could fund 24 hours of hospice care for a patient at the end of their life.

St Giles has also unveiled a host of festive fundraising events and ideas to help people who want to support the hospice at home, work or school in the run-up to Christmas this year.

Zoe said: “Friday, 10th December will see our annual Jolly Jumper Day taking place, where people are encouraged to wear their wonderful woolly for a suggested donation of £1. We’re also promoting our Secret Santa Swap, encouraging people to donate the funds they would have spent on a Secret Santa to St Giles.

“You can also get a Merry Messages Poster to write messages for your family, friends or colleagues, make dedicated donations as gifts or we can give you loads of ideas to host a festive fun day. We’re also selling a wide range of our popular charity Christmas cards.”

For more information about this year’s Rudolph Run, visit http://www.stgileshospice.com/rudolphrun

For fundraising ideas to support St Giles Hospice this Christmas, visit http://www.stgileshospice.com/get-festive

Teeing up the best of the west of Scotland

The iconic lighthouse on Turnberry Golf Course, which is open to the public

The west coast of Scotland has many famous sons, and no, we’re not talking about Donald Trump and his offspring. Yes, Trump does own the famous Turnberry golf course, but this part of the world, Ayrshire, with its rugged coastline and secluded beach is famous for other Scotsmen and women.

King of Scots Robert I, better known as Robert the Bruce, was born at Turnberry Castle, he defeated the English during the first war of Scottish independence, while poet Robert Burns, also known as the National Bard and the Bard of Ayrshire, is also a native as is Alexander Fleming, who credited with discovering penicillin. Scottish First Minister Nicola Sturgeon also hails from Ayrshire.

So there’s quite a history to the area and it attracts tourists looking for peace and quiet away from the madding crowd. Or, golfers looking for some of the finest courses in the world.

Our visit took us to a mobile home site halfway between the small village of Turnberry and the town of Girvan, just a stone’s throw from the sea. The views from the site, operated by Park Holidays are spectacular with the iconic Ailsa Craig dominating the view. Described as a huge volcanic plug of rock, it sits in the Firth of Clyde, 12 miles from the mainland.

It is famous for its  “blue hone” microgranite, quarried to make curling stones that feature in the Winter Olympics.

It was also a feature during coverage of previous Open golf championships, with cameras taking lingering shots of its brooding presence in the distance.

The site itself features a number of carvan styles and we were lucky enough to bag a bit of a bargain, with one of the lower grade ‘Bronze’ grade caravans costing us just £230 for the week.

An added bonus was that we were automatically upgraded to a range-topping eight-berth when we arrived.

Facilities are decent enough, with laundry, waste disposal, play areas, small shop and bar/restaurant available.

The Firth of Clyde waves lap onto the beach at Girvan, the ninth hole at Turnberry, St George’s Square in Glasgow an autumn sunset from the campsite and the brooding Ailsa Craig in the distance

The bar looks out over Ailsa Craig and hosts evening entertainment depending on what stage of the season you are there. It was still going reasonably well in late September.

There is plenty to see and do within the immediate area, particularly if you are a fan of ancient buildings with castles.

Further afield, Glasgow is less than 50 miles away and can be reached by rail if you have had enough of driving. It’s a beautiful city and well worth a visit, with Glasgow Central one of the most iconic railway stations in the UK.

More locally, there are golf courses everywhere with Turnberry just a couple of miles away, while other Open courses like Troon and Prestwick are just up the coastline.

The most picturesque of course is Turnberry with the iconic lighthouse, built by the family of the author, Robert Louis Stevenson, in the middle of the course and Ailsa Craig in the distance. Public footpaths allow people to wander up the lighthouse and the runways which were used during the Second World War are still part of the course, although now unused.

Just next to the lighthouse, are the still visible ruins of Turnberry Castle, home of Robert the Bruce who defeated the English in battle. It is located between the 9th and 10th holes of the Championship Ailsa course.

Slightly further afield is Culzean Castle and Country Park is the perfect place for a family day out, while if you fancy a wee dram, a specialist whisky shop is nearby.

Turnberry itself offers some small beaches with rolling sand dunes and its flora, fauna and wildlife in general give the designation of Site of Special Scientifc Interest (SSSI), so well worth bringing our binoculars along. While Ailsa Craig still dominates here, further in the distance are the Isle of Arran.

While the site shop is small, carrying necessities, there is a boutique farm shop just down the road and for a more substantial shop in the small town of Girvan is about three miles away.

It’s a picturesque little town with a small harbour and a long promenade with access to beaches.

It hosts a large supermarket and the railway station for that trip to Glasgow.

We had postponed a foreign holiday and, given the huge rise in staycations during the pandemic, we were lucky to find somewhere as picturesque and relaxing. A first holiday in Scotland, definitely not the last 

FACTFILE

Park Holidays UK, a major group of 40-plus parks in England and Scotland. Due to the popularity of holiday home ownership, there are currently no plans to provide any letting facilities in 2022. However, says the company, it’s likely that some holiday home owners will wish to make their accommodation available for sub-letting next year – and by the end of December, details will be known and published on the company’s website (www.parkholidays.com).

Voyage of discovery on a Nile river cruise

A beautiful twilight scene on the Nile at Aswan

October half term, November and December Nile cruises from £1,295 

Holidaymakers looking for some hot autumn sunshine can now book a seven-night Nile cruise departing from Luxor after Egypt was removed from the Government’s red travel list last month. 

Specialist tour operator, Discover Egypt has availability for departures on 1, 8, 15, 22 and 29 November on board the five-star MS Tulip for £1,295 per person, plus limited availability for the October half term from 25 October for £1,495 per person. Weekly departures in December also cover the festive period. 

The five star luxury river cruiser MS Tulip

The price includes return flights from Heathrow to Luxor, transfers in Egypt, full board cruise and 10 guided excursions to see some of the top ancient sites along the Nile.

These include the Valley of the Kings and the Temple of Hatshepsut in Luxor, the Temple of Horus at Edfu, and the Ptolemic Temple at Kom Ombo.

The cruise also stops at Aswan for the chance to visit the High Dam, the Old Granite Quarries, the Unfinished Obelisk and the Temple of Philae on Agilika Island. 

The five-star MS Tulip was added to Discover Egypt’s programme in 2018 after being totally refurbished and features 50 guest cabins and a chic interior, with a large sun deck, swimming pool, sauna and small fitness suite, plus a deck bar, lounge bar and main restaurant. 

Top from left, clockwise, a spectacular Luxor at night, the temple at Abu Simbel, the Temple of Hapshepsut, the Horus at Edfu and the mask of the boy king Tutenkhamun

Most standard cabins have a panoramic opening window with balcony rail and the upper deck terrace suites have private sit-on balconies to enjoy the views. There are also two single cabins that can be booked without a single supplement. 

Discover Egypt also offers pre or post cruise stays in Cairo, Luxor, Sharm El Sheikh, Hurghada, El Gouna and Soma Bay for those that want to explore more of this fascinating country. 

Temperatures in Egypt are around 33 deg C in October and 28 deg C in November, making it a great time to visit with hot days and balmy evenings. 

For more information and to book contact Discover Egypt on 020 7407 2111 or www.discoveregypt.co.uk

.         

New Sutton micropub a real family affair

The McDiarmid family outside one of their other pubs. The Ale Hub is expected to open before Christmas

A new micropub opening in Sutton Coldfield is a real family affair with the owners saying they want it to have a community feel and employ local people.

The McDiarmid family will open their fourth Ale Hub in Mere Green, at the former premises of Garner Canning Solicitors on Hill Village Road.

The former solicitor’s office on Hill Village Road

The new mini boozer will offer traditional ales for drinkers, together with a selection of gins, other drinks and bar snacks and provide a relaxed environment for customers.

It will be open from midday to 11pm seven days a week.

The family will spend around £50,000 converting the offices into a new real ale mini boozer, with a capacity of around 12 tables. There will be background music, but no electronic machines, with the emphasis on conversation and socialising with few distractions.

It is anticipated that work will start sometime in October and the conversion should be complete towards the end of the year and almost certainly by Christmas.

It should be good timing as the long-awaited transformation of Mere Green and Mulberry Walk in particular, and will add more variation to the already vibrant food and drink scene.

It will be their fourth pub to open during the pandemic, a tribute to their business acumen and determination in difficult circumstances.

The family, who are based in the Solihull area, also run a web-based logistics company.

They said they have a love of real ale and became disillusioned over the quality of real ales being offered at larger chains, where the main emphasis is on food, rather than the quality of the drinks.

Parents Neil and Sue McDiarmid, together with sons Campbell, Connor and daughter Brodie decided to have a go themselves and opened micropubs in Dickens Heath and Shirley with another due to open in Worcester. The say they pride themselves on the Ale Hub being a family-run business.

Their aim is to help to revitalise the local pub scene and provide the community with a choice of refreshing and well-kept drinks in a relaxed and friendly environment.

Campbell explained how the family became involved: “My mum and dad are real ale lovers and they struggled to find somewhere to go to cater for their needs. They saw that ales were generally poorly kept and saw a gap in the market for a local community feel pubs that offer cask ale, craft beers but doesn’t concentrate on the food side.

“We chose Mere Green when we were told it would be suitable for the clientele we were aiming for. We looked for about three months and then this venue came up and we went for it.”

“We will employ a local manager with around four part-time staff, who will also be local.”

Campbell added that the quality of the ales was paramount. “We have strict procedures in place,” he said. “There are protocols in every one of our bars to ensure quality.”

The tiny new pub, sandwiched between a general store and a barbers shop, will offer another option for tipplers in the area, offering a range of traditional real ales together with various gins and other drinks.

The plan approved by Birmingham City Council shows the ground floor will have a bar area, cellar and around a dozen tables, with toilet facilities on the first floor.

In a statement to Birmingham City Council planning department, The Ale Hub said: “We are looking to operate a micropub out of the premises which will have a focus on being a pleasant friendly space for the local community.”

Triple helping of laughter at town hall

Comedy fans in Sutton Coldfield are in for a triple treat when a trio of comedians take the stage at the town hall. Rosie jones, Justin Moorehouse and Mrs Barbara Nice will present a night of comedy at the town venue on Thursday, November 18.

Rosie, currently appearing on the Last Leg Paralympics show, has quickly become a must-see act on the UK comedy circuit.
The ex-television researcher was awarded second place in the Leicester Mercury’s New Comedian Of The Year Award 2018 and has gone on to star on Live At The Apollo, The Jonathan Ross Show, 8 Out Of 10 Cats, 8 Out Of 10 Cats Does Countdown.

She is also a regular on The Last Leg.

Justin has appeared on Live At The Apollo, Peter Kay’s Phoenix Nights.
Justin brought back tiger-faced Young Kenny for the record-breaking run of Phoenix Nights Live at The Manchester Arena, which raised over £5 million for comic relief; told fantastic tales about Australia and Manchester on Live At The Apollo.

He won The Champion of Champions on BBC 5Live’s Fighting Talk; and appeared as Dean the rival cricketing landlord on Coronation Street. All this as well as helming his own critically acclaimed podcast About 30 Minutes, No More Than 45.

Mrs Barbara Nice was created by award-winning comedian and theatre director Janice Connolly, Barbara Nice is the overenthusiastic housewife alter-ego of Birmingham-based performer Janice, who previously appeared in Peter Kay’s Phoenix Nights, and is well known on the circuit for her lively, upbeat presence.

Barbara performs playful, life-affirming shows for all the family. With the affectionate attitude of a playgroup leader at a wild Iggy Pop concert, she is guaranteed to warm the heart of any audience, say the organisers.

The show is hosted by Wayne Beese and is for over-16s only.
Tickets are still available and cost from £15-£18. The doors and bar open at 7pm, with the show starting at approximately 8pm

* Line-up may be subject to change, top quality comedy show always guaranteed

New bikes clocking up the miles in Sutton

West Midlands Mayor Andy Street at the launch of the bike scheme earlier this year at Town Gate

They may not be to everyone’s taste, but the ubiquitous West Midlands Cycle Hire Scheme, launched earlier this year in Sutton Coldfield by West Midlands Mayor Andry Street, is claimed to be a big success by the town council.

More and more of the green bikes have appeared around the town, including at Four Oaks station and Good Hope hospital as the Midlands wide scheme gathers pace.

The scheme, which is generally welcomed as a boost to fitness and wellbeing, has faced some criticism over the cost with an hour’s ride costing £4.

But Sutton’s council, which is working in partnership with WMCH, says the scheme is very popular with residents and visitors alike, with around 25,000 km – over 15,500 miles – already clocked up.

There arena 50 West Midlands Cycle Hire bikes available in Sutton Coldfield located at seven conveniently placed docking stations:

The bikes can be unlocked and docked at any of the stations and can be used for fun, for example a leisurely ride around Sutton Park, or for commuting.

Users do not need to begin and end at the same docking station; they can begin at one and cycle to another, providing of course there is room at that docking station. There have been reports of bikes being abandoned at various docking stations in Birmingham city centre.

To unlock and hire the bikes, users will need to download the Beryl cycle hire app and register for an account through the Play Store (Android) or App Store (Apple).

Leader of Royal Sutton Coldfield Town Council, Councillor Simon Ward, said: “It has been fantastic to see the enthusiasm for the West Midlands Cycle Hire scheme, delivered by the Town Council alongside WMCA, grow in Sutton Coldfield with many residents and visitors now using the bikes to enjoy our wonderful Royal town.

“Sutton Park Banners Gate already sits within the 10 most popular destinations to hire a bike across the West Midlands. Since March 2021, over 5,000 journeys have been made with over 3,000 being regular and repeat users. There is real appetite among new riders with over 800 in April alone.

“The bikes have enabled residents to enjoy time outdoors and experience the joy of cycling evidenced by an average journey time of 60 minutes. We are so fortunate to have our fantastic park and the bikes provide yet another way to enjoy it in all its glory. The Town Council pledged to put in place a public cycle hire scheme in its early years, and we are delighted to have delivered on this promise.”

Whatever the journey, the West Midlands Cycle Hire bikes in Sutton Coldfield provide a safe, efficient and a practical way to enjoy our town.”

The bike docking stations can be found at:

1. Sutton Park Banners Gate
2. Wyndley Leisure Centre
3. Stonehouse Road (Boldmere Gate Entrance to Sutton Park)
4. The Parade in the Town Centre
5. Four Oaks Train Station
6. Boddington Gardens
7. Good Hope Hospital Rectory Road Entrance

Prices

 It costs £1 to unlock a bike and then 5p per minute. Here are some ride cost examples:

10 mins20 mins30 mins
£1.50£2.00£2.50

To find out more and register for updates visit the website at https://www.wmcyclehire.co.uk/.

Karate champ Chloe is set to kick on

Black belt youngster has her sponsorship renewed

Sutton Coldfield teenager and second dan black-belt UK karate champion Chloe Barnes is getting set to chop down the opposition with renewed funding.

The Streetly Shukokai Karate Club pupil has taken the martial arts world by storm over the last number of years, reaching new highs and adding coveted sports titles to her impressive list of accolades. 

The World Karate Championship title holder has collected an outstanding 70 gold, silver and bronze medals, four trophies and was named 2020 GB Karate Sportsperson of the Year. 

Chloe, aged 15, a pupil at Fairfax School in Sutton, started learning karate when she was just six and obtained her second dan black belt in September 2018 at the age of 12, becoming the youngest-ever student to achieve the rank within her Karate Association.

Local car dealership Lookers Vauxhall Birmingham has been helping drive Chloe to sporting success for the past two years and recently announced a renewed partnership with the young star into 2022.

Speaking about the fresh boost from Chloe said: “Karate is my absolute passion and I have worked really hard over the last few years to get where I am. I’m so grateful to Lookers for continuing to back me in my sporting achievements. 

Chloe is delighted with her Lookers sponsorship

Through the partnership with Lookers, my family and I have received funding towards competition entries and travel expenses which has provided me with the opportunity to compete on a global stage and gain international titles. The Lookers team has also provided fantastic support in my training and always makes sure I’m well kitted out for practice and events. 

Although international and UK karate competitions have been put on hold throughout the pandemic, this hasn’t stopped Chloe from staying focused on her goal for gold, training via Zoom and enjoying one-on-one private lessons to stay ahead of the competition. 

“After a challenging 18 months of training at home, I’m really looking forward to competing in arenas again. I’m currently in training for my first competition since the pandemic, the Kanzen Cup International Open, taking place in Dundee this November and will return to defend my current titles in other future events”, added Chloe.

Lookers Vauxhall Birmingham General Manager Alan Collins said: “We’re very proud to support Chloe in her sporting achievements and over the last three years we have seen her grow to become a karate sensation. At such a young age, Chloe has demonstrated world-class talent, fuelled by her drive and commitment, which has really catapulted her to international success. We’re delighted to renew our partnership with Chloe as part of our wider commitment to nurturing young sporting talent and we look forward to helping drive her future success.”

Founded in 1908, Lookers is one of the UK’s leading automotive businesses and largest multi-franchise dealer groups in the UK and Ireland, representing 33 volume and premium car manufacturers and specialising in new and used electric car sales across a network of over 150 franchised locations.

For more information on Looker’s support for local communities visit lookers.co.uk

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/