Cyclists in Surrey are going nowhere!

Olympic Riders on the Surrey Hills

Olympic Riders on the Surrey Hills

Noticed the large number of cyclists racing around Surrey lately? Bradley Wiggins, Mark Cavendish and Chris Froome have all played their part in inspiring the nation to get on their bike and peddle for England but Surrey seems to be the place they all want to be .

Cycling is now the 3rd most popular participation sport in England beating football into 4th . One could be forgiven for thinking that most or at least a large proportion of those cyclists head for Surrey and the Surrey Hills at weekends. Surrey’s country lanes and Box Hill in particular are welcoming huge numbers of cyclists often to the frustration of the Surrey weekend driver.

Surrey County Council has been quick to encourage this new phenomenon with the Surrey Cycle Strategy 2014-2026. . The strategy wants to build on the positive aspects of the growth in cycling to support economic growth , tackle congestion, improve personal mobility and address health problems. According to the strategy “Surrey’s economy will also benefit from the county’s role as a centre for sports cycling, while the negative impacts on affected communities will be minimised”

Surrey’s plans involve maps, cycle routes, training, cycle festivals and promotional activities as well as a new website with journey planners and “a wealth of information for cyclists”. They will also be investing in a new cycling infrastructure in Woking, Guildford and Redhill/Reigate.

Surrey has hosted hundreds of cycle events this year including the Prudential London-Surrey 100, The Guildford Town Centre races, local town Bikeathons, together with numerous smaller events. The Surrey Cycle league will be providing racing for over 1300 riders in over 150 race this year and most of those are in Surrey and on Surrey roads. Camberley will be hosting the penultimate stage of the Tour of Britain in September.

Prudential Ride London Surrey 100 have introduced Celebration packs including flags, beer mats, bunting and water bottles to give to local pubs, cafes and community centres embracing the cycle race and organising events alongside the race. More than 50 took up the offer, including Celebrate Pyrford and Sullivans Wine Bar in Weybridge. Prudential London also organised “community information sessions” to help make the most of the opportunities the race offers to local businesses.

As a result of Prudential Ride London-Surrey 100, organisations in Surrey are now eligible to apply for grants from the London Marathon Charitable Trust and, to date, 39 communities in the county have now received LMCT grants totalling £627,104. The grants are to help communities improve local outdoor recreational facilities.

Participative rides such as sportives and sponsored events are important drivers of cycle purchases. An April 2014 Mintel Survey stated that roadbikes have seen the strongest growth over the last year up 4.2%

Type in “Cycle shops and Repairs in Surrey” to Yell.com and you get 97 results. Plenty of these businesses are seeing a boom in sales. Brad Preston and his partner Bijan Tahan run Pure Motion Cycles an independent bike retailer in West Byfleet and have seen a “very very big boost “ in business since the Olympics. Brad is in no doubt about the effect the Olympics and more recently the Commonwealth games have had on their business. “Our workshop is flat out all the time”. In the last month they have been “inundated with people coming in with bikes for the London 100”.

Brad explains that cyclists are now participating in more than one event each year and they are coming into his shop 3-4 times per year to get their bikes ready for each event. In addition he’s seen a small increase in women buying road bikes and cycling.

He agrees that people are spending more on their cycling and even existing cyclists are upgrading to higher spec bikes and equipment. People are now customising their bikes and wanting something different. “They want bespoke bikes and custom spray jobs”. Asked whether he has seen an increase in middle aged cyclists, Brad says “There are more men in lycra, FULL STOP”.

Bike Shops are not the only businesses benefiting from the increase in cyclists . Head for Hampton Court at the weekend and you will see most of the cafés near the Palace heaving with cyclists. The same can be said for The National Trust Tea Shop at Box Hill where cyclists meet to follow in their heroes footsteps and climb Box Hill

Peaslake Village Stores set in the heart of the Surrey Hills, has definitely seen an increase to their business over the last 5 years from not only road cyclists but mountain bikers and off road cyclists. “Cycling clubs are coming from all over, especially London, to cycle in the Surrey Hills” according to manager, Gaynor Summersby.

“At the weekend the Surrey Hills becomes a cycling Mecca” Says Gaynor with 80% of the Store’s customers being cyclists dropping in for their delicious Flans and Sausage Plaits. Gaynor quotes one of her customers as saying that “the Surrey Hills are the best cycling this side of Scotland”.

Bob and Dave Keech, cycling brothers from Salisbury and Eastbourne respectively, say they “meet up regularly to catch up, cycle the Surrey Hills and to eat quiche “ made in the Peaslake Village Stores.

Surrey Cycling strategy states “Surrey countryside is well suited to cycling and recent high-profile cycling events such as the Olympic road races have provided high-profile coverage of the county as a cycling destination and as a beautiful place to visit”. Surrey has agreed to host the London-Surrey 100 for 5 years.

It seems the cyclists are here to stay for the foreseeable future and the weekend driver is going to have to either get on their bike and join in or embrace the boom cycling is giving to Surrey.

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Sands at Bleak House

2014april sandsSands at Bleak House is on the Chertsey Road, I’d been past it loads of times before and wondered what it was like. Today, a Sunday, we just happened to be hungry and in the right location and decided to give it a go. I had no preconceived ideas about Sands, it looks like a large Pub/Motel from the front and I was really after a tuna melt or something light. However, as we walked in I realised it had more of a restaurant feel and thought that perhaps we were in for a more substantial lunch than we had thought. I was also worried that I might be looking a bit scruffy having just been to the Household Waste facility at Martyrs Lane!

Mum pulling one of her faces!

The Conservatory at Sands….Mum pulling one of her faces!

When we asked for a table for two they asked if we had booked, there were plenty of reserved signs on the table so I thought we might be out of luck, but no, we were shown to a very nice table for two in the conservatory, looking out onto the outside eating area which was also very pleasant.

We were situated right by the staff station and I couldn’t help earwigging into their conversation, I  realised that we were termed a ‘walk in’ as opposed to having booked. I’ve never been called a ‘walk in ‘ before but decided that this boded well as it seemed they are popular enough to be heavily booked on a Sunday lunch time. Mum also noted that there was no salt or pepper on the table and remarked that they must be very confident of their seasoning as only the best restaurants don’t have salt and pepper on the table!

2014april sands3 The menu on a Sunday is Roast, Roast or Slow Roast so I went for the Slow Braised Shoulder of Lamb, Savoy Cabbage and Bacon and Gravy £13.50. Mum went for the Slow Roasted Loin of Pork, Rosemary Sage and Onion Stuffing, Honey Glazed Parsnips and Gravy £11.50. There were some delicious looking starters on offer but we decided that we didn’t want to indulge too much. We also chose a couple of wines. I had the unoaked Chardonnay and mum had the Pinot Grigio.

Floral Touches at Sands

Floral Touches at Sands

While we waited for our meal I had a quick look round. The décor is a tasteful beige/ grey  with colourful floral touches to relieve the muted colours. It’s very boutique hotel. There are two large dining rooms and a bar and a little conservatory with two tables which is where we were sitting. There is also a lovely outside seating area for sunny days.

Our wine arrived first and I was very impressed. I love my white wine and always choose an unoaked chardonnay if it’s on the menu. Oaked Chardonnay can be too’ oaky’ and spoil the taste of the grape but this particular Berri Estates, Australian unoaked chardonnay was delicious. The della Venezie Pinot Grigio was good too. The Sands were off to a good start.

Roast Lamb

Roast Lamb

When the food arrived we were not disappointed. It was a huge plate of food with very generous portions. They were served with roast potatoes and carrots green beans broccoli and cauliflower. My lamb had a wonderful flavour and the accompanying vegetables were perfectly cooked with THE most delicious Roast potatoes. Crunchy on the outside and delightfully fluffy on the inside, I was in seventh heaven and polished off my Roasties and half of mum’s. The Savoy cabbage and bacon was also beautifully flavoured and had a hint of cinnamon flavouring which worked surprisingly well. It was a delicious feast my only criticism being that I didn’t think the lamb really needed the cabbage and bacon and I effectively ate my lunch as two courses, the lamb and then the cabbage and bacon.

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Roast Pork at Sands

Mum’s Pork and stuffing was equally good. The roast parsnips were plentiful and tasted delicious with the honey coating. The stuffing was also very good . Mum’s only criticism was that there was no crackling.  As we finished our meal I heard the two blokes behind us saying how much they had enjoyed their meals and how generous the portions were. I had a quick chat with them and they said their previous visit was equally good.

While we were waiting for the bill I had a look at the daily evening menu. There were 4-5 starters with about 4 mains and 4 desserts together with their ‘favourites menu’ of their most popular dishes such as burgers and posh fish and chips. The menu is also changed regularly. My guess is that the food benefits from not having too many menu options so that the dishes they do offer are well cooked and fresh rather than having an extensive menu where the quality is hard to maintain.

2014april sands7 We finished off our meal with a very good cup of coffee. The service had been very good, the food delicious and overall we had a very good dining experience. One thing I ‘d like to have known though was a little about their name. Sands at Bleak house sounds very sombre and it would have been nice to see an explanation of the origins of their name on the menu or literature. I had a perfect Sunday lunch so I’m going to give Sands a Double Thunderbolt rating, Very Good. Here’s the link http://www.sandsatbleakhouse.co.uk/home.aspx

Double Thunderbolt Rating

Double Thunderbolt Rating

Blogging Holiday

Dear readers, just a quickie, as they say, I’m currently not blogging at the moment but hope to be back in the next month or two. If there is something you’d like me to cover then just leave a comment and I’ll get round to it very soon.  Thunderbolt 12/4/14

Woking Town Centre Development, say NO to Yellow

It’s January 9th and I decided to go and soak up the atmosphere in Central Woking and get some inspiration for my New Year’s Blogs. Lo and behold a whole wall of information on the planned new developments for Woking Town Centre right in the middle of the shopping centre, just opposite Patisserie Valerie to be precise.

My view is that Woking really needs a facelift, unfortunately there is too much concrete and previous developers have decided that Woking should be wedged against the railway and ringed with fast moving traffic, not ideal for expansion.  Therefore to make Woking look aesthetically pleasing and to match it’s quota for new homes Woking is going to have to come up with something really imaginative as well as practical.

So far, the renovation around Jubilee Square has really worked and it is a great municipal space which has been utilised to full advantage with all sorts of community events going on. A good start has been made. The update on Commercial Way is really beginning to make a difference and as soon as they get rid of that horrible blue on the Wolsey Centre it will look far more pleasing to the eye!!

DSCN0168I was therefore very keen to look at the new plans for the Victoria Square and Bandstand Square area. Bandstand square is to be totally made over with a glass roof and some very 21st century glass fronted superstores including, Marks and Sparks which will open in 2017.  There is some nice peripheral greenery and the whole place looks like it will be a vast improvement on what we have at the moment. However the developers are not sure exactly what to do with the Bandstand. Perhaps they should ask the public for ideas? or put it somewhere in the ‘New Victoria’ square’?

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Current Bandstand Square

New Bandstand Square

Proposed Bandstand Square

2014jan vic sq2The second area for development is being called the Victoria Square development ” a new quarter for Woking” and will encompass where the Fire station is now, where the Market currently stands, the former post office and Globe house and the little ‘Pigeon Park’ opposite boots which desperately needs re- landscaping. The new development will take the shape of 5 high-rise towers one of which will be a four star hotel and the others residential housing. The affordable housing quota has not been decided yet.

View from the railway bridge towards Victoria Way or where the market it now.

View from the railway bridge towards Victoria Way or where the market it now.

This all looks very good and I think the changes will give Woking the edge that it needs but I have two objections. Firstly, I really don’t like high-rise, it gives a real closed in feeling and on a summer’s day it’s a shame to walk down a street with no sunlight and shadows cast by skyscrapers. However I do understand that Woking has a quota of homes it has to build and with limited space they do have to be apartments. I also think that the more people you have  living in a town the more vibrant and also safe it is. So I’m reluctantly willing to let this go.

Yellow is my second and unswerving objection. All these high rises are themed in yellow. One of the high-rise blocks, the four star hotel, is entirely in Yellow. The other blocks all have yellow trim/balconies. Now, I know this sounds a bit like a Surrey house wife rant, worrying about the colour of a block of flats, but have you ever seen yellow look good on a building? Yellow, particularly municipal yellow ultimately  tends to cheapen the look of a place and it can look tatty very quickly, yellow does not age well. We want Woking to seriously rival Guildford and have it’s own identity and in my view we need something more neutral and classy.  So I’m going to suggest a new campaign. ‘Say NO to Yellow’

Woking development view from Guildford Road towards the railway bridge

Woking development view from Guildford Road towards the railway bridge

I have just tried to get onto the website www.victoriasquarewoking.co.uk to let the developers know what I think but you can’t even get into the site without a password. So much for the public being allowed their say. I also went on to Woking borough Council website http://www.woking.gov.uk/business/towncentredevelopments to see if they have any “contact us” pages regarding the development. They as yet do not mention this new development although all previous developments are detailed. I have however managed to email the developers, Turley Associates. victoriasquarewoking@turleyassociates.co.uk

So if you agree with me and can help me contact the people involved, let me know. Also comment on this blog and I will pass it on to the developers. If you don’t agree with me comment too because then at least I’ll know I’m barking up the wrong tree.

This development needs to be ‘spot on’ for Woking to rival or be as good as Guildford or stand out as the “place to be” in Surrey. Generally the plans look good and I’m very optimistic, but let’s try to get rid of that yellow before it’s too late.

Thunderbolt

Comedy and Carol’s at Christ Church Woking

Miranda, she of the posh voice and softly self deprecating humour, champion of the single woman and all round (not that I’m suggesting she’s round in any way) good egg was rumoured to be appearing at the Christ Church Comedians and Carols night in Woking. When a friend told me the rumour I was on the internet, booking tickets quicker than you can say ‘Such Fun’.

Christ Church, Woking

Christ Church, Woking

We arrived nice and early and found that unfortunately they weren’t opening the doors until exactly dead on 7.30pm. We stood in the queue, freezing our socks off and exchanging pleasantries and little jokes with everyone in the queue. By this time I had been informed that Miranda was definitely not coming and we weren’t sure what might lay in wait for us in that nice warm church.

Eventually the doors opened and the crowd surged forwards. The Christ Church team were in full force with their matching sweatshirts, shepherding the crowd and generally welcoming everyone and herding them in the right direction. We rushed to the front to get some good seats and then headed back to the temporary bar to get some glasses of red wine. The vicar, Peter Harwood, had recommended the red wine in particular and of course a vicar should know his red wine as he probably drinks quite a lot in his job.

At 8pm, after the Vicar had officially welcomed us all, Paul Kerensa, Comedian and one of the writers of Miranda and Not Going Out bounced onto the stage and began his warm up routine. He was gently funny and my worries at having invited Colin’s daughter Jasmine and her fiancé Nick along began to disappear. He introduced the first act, Andy Kind a comedian hailing from Manchester.

Andy Kind

Andy Kind

According to Andy’s website he is described by the Scotsman as being ‘terrific’ and his style like ‘ the joyful rant of a post 30 chaos vacuum’ I think that’s a bit harsh he was very good. He certainly had us in stitches. He’s a good observational comic and we found ourselves chuckling along to his anecdotes and had some really big belly laughs especially when one joke in particular hit home.

Howard Read

Howard Read

We sang a Carol, I can’t remember which one and then the next comedian, Howard Read was on. Howard had a very unusual style. He first of all entertained us with a lullaby to make sure your child won’t ever get out of bed once you’ve put them there and wouldn’t dare move once in the bed for fear of the beasts and ghouls that Howard was lovingly describing. It was naughtily funny. The rest of his act consisted of a ‘double act’ with a cartoon character called Little Howard who appeared on the screen behind him.

Interval time and a dash for the ladies loo, I got there first and was mightily pleased with myself when I saw the queue on the way out. I was then able to relax with another lovely glass of the Vicars wine and a chat with the people around us. Everyone seemed to be having a jolly old time and were commenting on what a good evening it was turning out to be.

Paul Kerensa

Paul Kerensa

Paul Kerensa was up first after the break and he was now wearing a silly Xmas outfit complete with Xmas jumper and reindeer antlers. For some reason his jokes got even better and he was really funny. He then got us singing his amusing version of the Fairytale of New York which he had adapted to be relevant to Woking. I couldn’t help noticing that everyone sang this with Gusto, a little more gusto than the last Carol but by then we had all had a couple of glasses of wine.

Singing always makes you feel good and after the rendition of Fairytale of New York the whole audience seemed to have been catapulted into higher spirits or could it have been the Holy Spirit? The Headline act of the evening was Milton Jones. Nick, the aforementioned fiancé was beside himself, he’d not really wanted to come along not that he would have said anything to me he’s too well brought up, but now he was going to see his favourite comedian. Of course this called for a status update on Nick’s face book page. An outpouring of jealousy ensued on the 20 something face book network. I was feeling quietly smug that I’d brought them to such a COOL night out.

milton_jonesAnyway, back to Milton he jumped onto the stage all springy legs, loud shirted and Squiffy haired. Milton Jones is the King of the one liners and some of them are so clever the audience have to think about them for a while but Milton is quite practised and he just stands there until you get the joke. It was a great set and very clever. He was so good I forgot all about Miranda, speaking of whom… she did actually do a 5 minute very funny pre- recorded slot all about Genesis, not the group – Adam and Eve and that pesky snake.

The Evening was finished off with a rousing rendition of Hark the Herald Angels, sung with a great deal of enthusiasm. Funny how a great night of comedy can release the inhibitions and get even the tone deaf and terribly shy to brush off their tonsils and let rip with their vocal chords.

We left the church having had a fantastic evening. We were all smiles and happiness afterwards and it was so nice to go to such a good evening locally. It may even have done the job of enticing us back for a bit of proper Carol singing later in the season.

Thanks to Paul Kerensa ( I did buy your book afterwards ) and to Christ Church Woking for organising such a splendid evening this is definitely going to get the Lightening standard rating – Excellent

Three Thunderbolts, the Lightning Standard

Three Thunderbolts, the Lightning Standard

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Torchlit History Talk at St John’s Xmas Celebration

Gossip and History is always a good combination and there was plenty of it on the Torch-lit History talk at this year’s St John’s Christmas celebrations. A crocodile of about 50 people followed Sue Bore (standing in for her husband Chris Bore) and her very colourful flashing neon wand around St John’s, Surrey  to learn more about the history of their village. I didn’t catch all of it, might have something to do with my mulled wine consumption or the fact I couldn’t see what I was writing but I’ve got most of the juicy and interesting bits and have recounted them in the following blog. Feel free to contribute in the comments section at the end if you can clarify or add to my account of the evenings proceedings.

St John's Church on a misty day.

St John’s Church on a misty day.

First stop was between the Church and St John’s Village Club, where a lady called Sue who had been born and lived in the village for 58 years climbed onto a small step ladder and balanced precariously on the top. She started by describing how she and her brother used to go to the Church school that once stood where Apollo and Scylla Place are now. Her brother used to have a little peddle car that he would peddle part of the way, leave it under a bush and walk the rest of the way. On the way back he’d pick up the car and peddle all the way back. The car was always just where he left it. The Bell from the school is still in it’s original place and can be seen in the eves of Scylla Place.

Church School Bell  on Scylla Place, St John's Surrey

Church School Bell on Scylla Place, St John’s Surrey

Some of the villagers began to chime in with their stories. One lady advised us that the history of the school has been well documented by a Mrs Kiery. Sue’s Mother a Mrs Constable used to teach in the school. Another lady suddenly realised that she used to know Sue’s mother and another talked about her own father who had been the Verger and Sexton at the church in the 50’s and 60s. It was almost like a school/village reunion! Perhaps some of those people could be persuaded to record their memories for prosperity?

St John’s Church was built in 1840 by Charles Bowles the Vicar of St Peter’s in Old Woking who felt that the burgeoning population around the Kiln Bridge area needed a Chapel of Ease. ie they probably couldn’t be bothered to walk all the way into Old Woking to go to church on their day off so the wiley vicar built a church closer to them and ‘easier’ to get to, so they had no excuse. He employed the architect George Gilbert Scott as Architect and the completed church was consecrated by the Bishop of Winchester on 24th June 1842.

St John's village Club

St John’s village Club

Next someone told us the story of the Village Club, this was originally built by the Percival Family who owned most of the surrounding land in the 1870s. They lived in a huge house and grounds called The Hermitage, now known as the Hermitage Estate. This was when the Canal was a working canal and St John’s was frequented by lots of bargemen. Most of them headed for the Rowbarge for their entertainment which was a popular place of ill repute! The Percivals decided to build a Working Men’s Club in order to keep working men out of the Rowbarge. Miss Percival was the only lady allowed in the club and to this day it still doesn’t admit ladies. The female audience were  more amused by this than upset although there were a few disgruntled murmurings  but I don’t think the suffragettes of St John’s are too bothered about not being allowed in. My other half said he might join especially when he heard that membership was only £10 a year and it costs £2.10 a pint! I’m all for it, that’s a couple of hours of peace for me.

A few Celebrities have lived in the house next to the club, John Gregg the cricketer and Jean Chaliss a BBC radio presenter , I could have this name wrong as I tried to google Jean Chalice but found nothing so if you can help me on this one please comment at the end.

St John's lye looking a bit moody and foggy!

St John’s lye looking a bit moody and foggy!

Next stop was the Merityre Centre. Here again the elders of the village (hope they don’t mind being called elders, I think it sounds wise) took over and started remembering what shops were where. The pharmacy used to be a Stables and the Car Park opposite was the Stable Yard and there was a Barber’s near Bellini’s called Sid’s Hair Cutters. According to popular legend Sid was a bit of a gambler and you never went to Sid when he had money on a horse as he just couldn’t concentrate! There was also another pub in the Village called the Prince of Wales, very nice food according to one of the villagers but sadly it has gone now. One lady recounted going to Tiang’s when it was a Dressmakers and Haberdashers and remembered a lovely garden behind the shop. Around where the Tyre Centre is now were Brick Kiln’s which were supplied with locally sourced clay hence the name Kiln Bridge.

The Kiln Bridge, St John's Surrey

The Kiln Bridge, St John’s Surrey

Our final stop was the site of the Old Memorial Hall. This time John Jarret who is Chairman of the New Memorial Hall Construction Committee took to the step ladder and gave us a potted history of the Hall.

The Kiln Bridge, St John's Surrey

The Kiln Bridge, St John’s Surrey

In World War II Three fighter pilots came down over Woking. They were all on training flights. Two came down over Knaphill they were aged 19 and 20 and sadly lost their lives. The third, a Polish Pilot clipped wings with another Spitfire while practising and had to press the ejector button. His Spitfire came down on the golf course and he parachuted down over the kiln bridge. The story goes that Mrs Moore from the Butchers, thinking it was the enemy arriving rushed out brandishing a meat cleaver. The Pilot didn’t speak any English and I suspect found the encounter more terrifying than fighting the Luftwaffe

The Memorial hall was opened on the 3rd May1940, primarily for the Canadian servicemen that were stationed in nearby Inkerman Barracks. Someone wondered aloud that quite a few residents of St John’s might have Canadian blood! It cost the princely sum of £2,500 to build and was opened by two princesses, both grand daughters of Queen Victoria, Princess Helena Victoria who was 70 at the time and Princess Alice.  In the Press cuttings the hall was described as the Princess Helena Victoria “Hut” despite having a full concert hall and 4 bathrooms. It was originally staffed by 80 volunteers and 4 paid staff. Later on the hall was purchased for the sole use of the people of the village in memory of those who had lost their lives in the war.

The Olde Hay Loft, St John's, Surrey

The Olde Hay Loft, St John’s, Surrey

Before John gave us a quick summary of the construction of the new hall we were side tracked by a story of an Indian Princess. In the 1930s an Indian Princess and her entourage came to stay in the village, in the  next to the Olde Hay Loft Canal. She became ill and they thought she was going to die so put her in the woodshed as it was a religious belief that you should not have a dead body in the house. Sure enough she died. The body then had to be transported over water, down the canal to the crematorium where a funeral pyre was prepared. The crematorium was one of the few place that an outdoor cremation was allowed. The Daily Mirror tried to bribe someone to take a photograph but big screens were erected and no pictures were possible. The Daily Mirror may have been thwarted in their attempt to make money from the story but the entrepreneurial shoe makers in St John’s did a roaring trade in plimsolls as the funeral goers were not allowed to wear leather.

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The New Memorial Hall, St John’s, Surrey, Dec 2013

Back to the new Memorial Hall and John gave us a quick update on progress. The villagers have been saving for 30 years to rebuild the Hall but finally Woking Council have decided to step in and pay for the whole thing. The new building will cost around £1.7 million. Natural heat will be harnessed from the ground, a rain water collection system will be used to flush the toilets and it is built from an award winning design. The new hall will provisionally be opened on the 3rd May 2014.

The tour ended here and we felt that we’d not only been given a living history tour with all the villagers recounting their memories but also some great stories to tell down the pub! Those that had put the tour together and those that joined in with their knowledge and memories did a fantastic job and I’m looking forward to the next history tour which will be on the 1st Feb 2014 starting at Seasons Coffee shop.

If you would like to help with the opening of the new Memorial Hall please contact, John, Denise or  Fiona at the following email address bookings@stjohnsmha.co.uk

I like my history and I love a bit of gossip! So I’m going to give the history tour a double thunderbolt rating, Very Good, as I’m sure February’s tour will be even better!

Double Thunderbolt Rating

Double Thunderbolt Rating

St John’s Christmas Celebration

St John’s Christmas Celebration

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St John’s Xmas Celebration, “Ring-a-Roses” Festive display

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A touch of the Apres Ski at St John’s

YO HO HO AND A SPICY MULLED WINE,

MINCE TARTS AND A JOLLY GOOD TIME,

SWEET CHESTNUTS ON AN OPEN FIRE

TALES OF HISTORY AND A CHURCH CHOIR

CHRISTMAS CAROLS ON THE VILLAGE GREEN

WHAT A VERY VERY MERRY XMAS SCENE!!

The traders at St John’s came together on Friday night to create a celebration of Xmas with mulled wine and minced pies for all and an Elf spotting competition and presents for the kids.

DSCN0090We sauntered down at around 5.30pm and couldn’t believe the number of people outside Seasons café. It looked like an Apres Ski resort, with lots of people milling around with their cups of mulled wine and woolly hats. As any sensible person would, we headed straight to Seasons for our mulled wine served by a smiling Megan and then headed outside to join the throng on the pavement. Before we knew it Joanne from Fil’s Fitness Studio was handing us a mince pie. Joanne was definitely in the Xmas spirit as you can see from her T-shirt! She told us all about the organisation of the First Ever St John’s Village Xmas Celebration.

Joanne From Fil's Fitness Studio enjoying the celebrations

Joanne From Fil’s Fitness Studio enjoying the celebrations

All the shops taking part had an Xmas tree outside, the trees had been organised by Rachel at Ring-a-Roses and all the shops were open until 8pm. The Mince Pies had been supplied by Heaters the Bakers and the Co-op had supplied the Mulled Wine. Cest Si Bon was acting as Santa’s Grotto for the kids to get their prizes from the Elf spotting competition. However all the traders had contributed to the cost and were keen to create a fantastic evening for the people of St John’s.

Roasted chestnuts anyone?

Roasted chestnuts anyone?

Charles from the Surrey Woodburners, complete with Santa hat was busy roasting sweet chestnuts over his Kadai (Posh BBQ)  and next door was a little stall selling trinkets sponsored by the Ultimate Treatment Centre. We had a quick chat with Joanne and Charles over the Roast Chestnuts and then a chap in a Judo suit joined us. I thought perhaps he’d got his wires crossed and thought it was fancy dress but no, he was actually Fil from the Fil’s fitness studio and explained that as well as fitness classes Fil also teaches Martial Arts, hence the kit!

Baking Competition Prize

Baking Competition Prize

Not just Kitchen Ideas

Not just Kitchen Ideas

“Not Just Kitchen Ideas” were  hosting the baking competition. Now I do like a bit of baking and when I saw the prizes I was kicking myself for not entering my new favourite recipe, Dorset Apple Cake. There only seemed to be 3 entries, not much competition I thought. However, I decided that there were bound to be more entries as the evening progressed and entered the competition for a bottle of Champers instead…had to console myself with something.  We had a little chat with Lisa in the shop who was very friendly and enthusiastic about the evening. She and her family had run the business for 21 years and this was the first time that they had done something like this.

Mike "Santa" Clark from St John's Co-op

Mike “Santa” Clark from St John’s Co-op

Re-joining the main crowd we spotted a chap outside the Co-op in a rather fetching Santa outfit. This was none other than Keith Clark manager of St John’s Co-op. A Co-op man through and through, Keith has been working for the Co-op for 25 years.  He proudly told us that the Co-op in St John’s has already raised £1,200 for the Carers Trust this year and it looked like they were about to raise some more with their stall of goodies all being sold in order to raise money for charity.

Just before the History walk, we ran into John Lennie  who was exhibiting his Wedding photo Gallery in Seasons. His pictures were absolutely stunning, he’d really captured people’s expressions while they were unaware and there was some lovely photography on display. I was wondering if I could get him to do the pictures for my blog?!!

John Lennie on the right, great picture Thunderbolt!

John Lennie on the right, great picture Thunderbolt!

At 6pm we joined the  torch lit history talk around the village. This was a real treat and had at least 50 people enthralled for an hour walking round the village listening to tales of St John’s back in the old days, Indian princesses, establishments of ill repute, the origins of the Village Club and the history of the Memorial Hall and also the latest developments on the new hall currently under construction. It was an entertaining and informative hour, certainly got people talking to each other and was a definite highlight of the evening. If you want the full story see separate blog.

Finally the evening ended with a Carol Service led by St John’s Church. We had a little sing song until I embarrassed Colin with my off key rendition of Ding Dong Merrily on high…..too many Glawawawrias (Glorias).

I know that I have mentioned a lot of businesses in this  blog and they are only the ones I managed to have a chat with, however, I know that a lot of other businesses contributed and that’s why I have taken a picture of the flyer so that you can see exactly which businesses took part. The evening definitely achieved the aim of raising the profile of St John’s traders but not only that it was a great community event and from what I could see and hear really brought the community together.

St John's Christmas Celebration Evening Flyer

St John’s Christmas Celebration Evening Flyer

At the end of the evening, 300 mince pies had been eaten, 30 bottles of mulled wine drunk and 300 prizes from Santa had been given out. We had a splendid evening, dare I say it, full of good cheer.  St John’s did us proud and those traders that took part should definitely congratulate themselves on a wonderful evening and the fulfilment of a great idea.

I’m going to give the evening a double thunderbolt rating – very good!! This was the first ever Christmas celebration at St John’s but I’m sure that next year’s will be even better not least because we will have the new Memorial Hall to celebrate in. Incidentally if you would like to help with the opening of the New Memorial Hall please contact bookings@stjohnsmha.co.uk and they would love to hear from you.

Double Thunderbolt Rating

Double Thunderbolt Rating