Four Shires

Friday, Mar 02nd

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Free swimming lessons for adults in West Oxfordshire

underwaterWest Oxfordshire District Council is offering adult non-swimmers the opportunity to dip their toe in the water and sign up for free swimming classes at The Windrush Leisure Centre in Witney. 

 The council-owned leisure centre, which is run by leisure contractor GLL-Nexus, is giving adult non swimmers aged over 30 the chance to get free swimming lessons from trained instructors for six weeks followed by six weeks at a reduced cost.

The initiative, funded by ASA Kellogg’s Swim Active Fund, not only aims to encourage adults to learn how to swim but also promote other benefits of hitting the pool.

Cllr Richard Langridge, Cabinet Member for Communities, said: “We are committed to supporting adults in the community to learn new skills. This initiative will not only benefit them by learning how to swim but can also encourage them to bring their families and make use of the great leisure facilities on offer.”

Swimming is considered to be a great low impact exercise that strengthens the heart and lungs as well as improving flexibility and balance.

As well as contributing towards good health, being able to swim can also help save lives with drowning being classed as the third most common cause of accidental death in children in the UK. 

The free lessons start on Wednesday 22 February from 8pm. For details on how to register call The Windrush Leisure Centre on 01993 861805 or 202020 or email

Steve Backshall's Live and Deadly at Cotswold Wildlife Park

backshall 1 912 x 684The BBC’s flagship children’s television show, Live ‘n’ Deadly, broadcasted live from Cotswold Wildlife Parklast month much to the delight of children from Brize Norton Primary School, who were invited to be in the live audience.

The show kicked off with hosts Steve Backshall and Naomi Wilkinson measuring Barney, the Park’s longest snake. Steve and Naomi were joined by British Triathlete and triple World Ironman Champion, Chrissie Wellington, who, along with several keepers, attempted to measure the gargantuan reticulated python (pictured top left). No mean feat considering Barney is over twenty four feet in length and doesn’t stay still for a second. It took eight people in total to hold Barney for the task!

Steve and Naomi got up close to many of the Park’s animals including; the deadly wolverines, baby crocodiles, Brazilian tapirs and the world’s largest rodent, the capybara. Steve came nose-to-nose with the giant anteaters, delighting viewers with a close up view of what he described as “one of the weirdest animals on earth” with a tongue to match! Live from inside the bat cave, Steve attempted to answer viewers’ questions while fifty Egyptian fruit bats flew around him. Naomi featured red panda Doodo in the ‘Dead Cute’ section of the show (pictured right with keeper Brian Taylor), during which she said it was one of her “favourite ‘Dead Cute’s’ ever”. Steve’s favourite animal also played a starring role as he joined the pack of wolves inside their enclosure, even though two female wolves got camera shy and stayed underground beneath Steve’s feet!

Bafta nominated Steve said: “We had a totally crazy time at Cotswold Wildlife Park. Going claw-to-claw with a giant anteater was a particular highlight and you have the biggest snake I’ve ever seen... and that’s saying something!”

· Other highlights included CBBC stars Chris and Hacker broadcasting live from the Park throughout the morning.

· After the show, Steve and Naomi met the children from Brize Norton Primary School for a photo and signing session, which truly delighted their fans (both children and adult alike!)

· Barney the reticulated python was voted the ‘Ultimate Deadliest’ animal of the show!

Cotswold Wildlife Park opens its doors at 10am every day with last admission at 3.30pm

- ENDS – For further information, please contact Debbie Ryan, Press Officer, Cotswold Wildlife Park on 07787 133837 or email This e-mail address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. . Notes to editors: Photographs and interviews available on request. Feel free to use any image from the website as long as you credit Cotswold Wildlife Park. Except Christmas Day ††4.30pm during summer months. Photo bottom left, reptile keeper Iri, Steve Backshall, mammal keeper Mark, primate keeper Brian, Naomi Wilkinson and primate keeper Hayley. @cotsw

The Wanted for Westonbirt!

the wanted heart vacancyPop sensation The Wanted will perform a West Country concert this Summer at Westonbirt Arboretum. This is the final act to be announced at the venue as part of Forestry Commission Live Music 2012.

Just 18 months since their huge Number One debut single 'All Time Low', The Wanted has already become one of Britain's biggest, most brilliant pop bands, living a dream that has far surpassed even their most optimistic expectations. Hard working and quite plainly loving every single second, the band have already notched up a succession of hits, been viewed a staggering 30 million times on YouTube and sold 400,000 copies of their eponymous debut album. 'Battleground' their second album is keeping a pace having already generated the hits 'Lightning', 'Gold Forever', 'Warzone' and the Number One Summer dance smash 'Glad You Came'.

Forestry Commission Live Music concerts are renowned for their relaxed atmosphere, and income generated from ticket sales will be spent on caring for this internationally important tree collection. Westonbirt Arboretum hosts six concerts each summer with full on-site facilities and parking plus a dedicated taxi and private car drop off/pick-up zone.

The band's Nathan Sykes, who is from Gloucestershire said, "It's so cool for me to do a home show in such a great place. I'm sure you'll be glad you came!"

The Wanted plus guests will be appearing:

Friday 20th July, Westonbirt Arboretum, Nr Tetbury, Glos

Tickets £27.50 (subject to booking fee) go on sale at 9.00am Friday 10th February from the Forestry Commission box office tel 03000 680400 or buy online at


Enormous marrow unveiled in Leamington

giant marrowLeamington Spa Art Gallery & Museum will be co-hosting a screen heritage event with the Media Archive for Central England (MACE) on Friday 2 December at 1pm. This event has been organised to raise awareness of the importance of preserving home videos and films for future generations.

The Media Archive for Central England (MACE) is looking for old films and videos. This is part of a Heritage Lottery funded project called Full Circle, to uncover the hidden filmed heritage of the Midlands.

The programme for Friday 2 December will start at 1pm with an introduction by Kay Ogilvie. This will be followed by a screening of local archive films from the MACE collection. You can watch films showing Radford Semele from the 1930s and Leamington Spa from the 1950s. It will also be possible to bring in any film or video for Kay to have a look at.

This event is part of our Friday Focus programme. Free, no need to book

Julian Hartnoll sale at Holloways

teddy weird 333 x 260Early 2012 sees Post War British art experiencing a resurgence of interest, with three Post War exhibitions taking place next year in London alone.
Iconic among the Post War artists are the Kitchen Sink realists, considered so important in the 1950s that they represented Great Britain at the 1956 Venice Biennale.

2012 also marks the 50th anniversary of Julian Hartnoll’s career as a dealer. He is taking the anniversary as a moment to rationalise his business and has decided to sell some of his considerable stock through Holloway’s of Banbury.

The sale will consist of 320 framed paintings and drawings and will reflect the areas that Julian has dealt in during his career – namely, Kitchen Sink Realists John Bratby RA, Edward Middleditch and Jack Smith; as well paintings and drawings by the 'Indian Picasso' Francis Newton Souza (1924-2002) and a group of Victorian paintings, drawings and watercolours.

The sale commences at 11.00am February 21st in Banbury.

Third time lucky as pupils get planting

hedgeplantingIt was third time lucky for pupils at Sibford School on Friday when they finally managed to beat the elements and plant a new hedgerow on the edge of the school’s conservation area. 

Their efforts earlier in the month had been thwarted … firstly by frost, which made the ground too hard, and then by heavy rain, which made the ground too muddy. 

However the sun shone on the third attempt and, in near perfect conditions, Year 13 Countryside Management students were able to supervise as Year 7 pupils set about bedding in 150 plants.

When mature, the 34-metre hedge will act as a buffer zone between the school and a neighbouring farm, helping to prevent the spread of agro chemicals into the conservation area and so encourage biodiversity.

Pictured: Julia Beaumont (11) of Shipston on Stour, Bethany Mitchell (12) of Henley in Arden and Spencer Farley (11) of Chipping Norton.

Exhibition reveals Spencers hidden history of underwear

spandex corset add 1016 x 665Banbury Museum’s new exhibition 'Revealed: The Underwear Revolution', uncovers the history of underwear.  It tells the hidden story of how underwear has evolved from the Anglo-Saxon linen smock to the modern memory foam bra. 

The exhibition celebrates corset making in Banbury with original documents, photographs and corsets from Spencer (Banbury) Limited.

Cherwell District Council's lead member for environment, Cllr James Macnamara, said; "For many who worked at the Britannia Road site this exhibition will bring back memories. Visitors can hear accounts of life in the Spencer factory during and after the Second World War, recorded earlier this year at the museum’s ‘Times Gone By’ reminiscence group.

Cllr Macnamara added: "The exhibition will appeal to Downton Abbey fans - it's a chance to find out what Lady Grantham might have worn!"

Also on show is a woven blue silk dress, made in 1750, that needed special underwear for support. Other exhibition highlights include a machine-made cage crinoline - a skirt-shaped structure, fashionable in the late nineteenth century. The contraption, which sports 19 spring steel wire hoops, was preserved by conservators before going on show. Children can try on a replica eighteenth century quilted petticoat or Tudor shirt as part of a dressing-up activity.

Sarah Morton, from Oxfordshire County Council, said: "Revealed focuses on how innovation and technology changed what we wore beneath our clothes. It tells a fascinating story and I think people may never think of underwear in the same way again."

Fellow conservator Sam van de Geer presented a behind-the-scenes view of the conservation and display of textiles last Wednesday evening as part of Banbury Museum’s new Museum Plus programme. For more details of this and other activities at the museum visit or phone 01295 753752.

The ‘Revealed’ exhibition is open until 18 February. Entry is free