Revitalised rock and pop favourites to amp up camper festival

PREVIEW: Camper Calling, Ragley Hall, Warwickshire

feeder good
Feeder will bring their new rock sound to a stage in deepest Warwickshire

Feeder will deliver a road-shaking set of anthemic rock when Camper Calling returns to the neatly-clipped grounds of Ragley Hall estate. The seasoned Welsh band are among the headliners at the third instalment of the family-friendly outdoor music festival that unfurls its VW-shaped awning over the August bank holiday.

With a discography stretching back 15 years, chart-eating monsters such as Buck Rogers and Just the Way I’m Feeling will be batted out along with their reinvigorated sound. The indie-rockers’ gig beside a usually sedate Warwickshire lake will come straight off the back of their 2018 ‘Best Of’ tour in their 21st anniversary year.

“I remember sitting in a classroom at school aged 11 drawing pictures of flying V guitars and dreaming of being in a band, a band that could fill arenas and stadiums,” said lead vocalist Grant Nicholas. “The dream came true and here I am 25 years later with Feeder and still riding the rock and roll train.”

Melanie C will continue the Cool Britannia thread as she headlines on the opening Friday night. Protracted speculation over a long-mooted reunion with Baby, Posh and co has not stopped the singer-songwriter continuing to fuse pop, R & B and electro elements into her own blend.

Mel c

Sporty is promising her repertoire of solo hits – she has seven albums to choose from – plus a few surprises. Quite apart from reprising Wannabe, she is on a mission to redux her sound.

Lucy Spraggan wins hearts with tea, toast and barking dogs

“I wanted to make an album that I would listen to now,” she said of her latest long-player, Versions of Me.

“I love playing my old hits live, but like everyone else, my tastes have moved on. I’m not a leftfield artist, I never will be.

“I write pop songs, but my aim this time was to approach every aspect of them differently, to be more creative with structure and sounds”

The coral

The Coral – who also turn 21 this year – are set to have mums, dads and footwell-sized pet dogs dancing when they close the festival on the Sunday.

The bill also includes Scouting for Girls, The South, Bruce Foxton and From The Jam, Neville Staple, Craig Charles and his funk and soul club and a return for Artful Dodger, who got the party started for the younger crowd last time round.

Camper Calling’s third year takes place by the lake and stately home in the rolling grounds of the Ragley estate, with VW vans a popular but not essential mode of arrival. Camping, creative craft workshops, campfire tales, a funfair, lake activities and a children’s circus show are also there for the taking. Street food stalls return and grown-ups can seek refreshment at a craft ale and cider tent.

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Crowds bask in sun and sound as Lucy Spraggan performs at last year’s festival
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Camper Calling is back for a party beside the lake and gardens on the Ragley Estate

Events director Shelley Bond said: “We are so excited about this year’s magical main stage line-up. It’s a total honour to announce a former Spice Girls as our Friday night headliner.

“Mel C is the epitome of class. It’s great to have some girl power at the top of our bill.

“It’s also amazing to announce Brit-indie rock favourites Feeder as Saturday headliners and psych-pop legends The Coral as Sunday headliners.

“We’re trying to bring together the nation’s best-loved acts and these headliners offer a nostalgic throw back to the 90s and 00s.

“They are sure to play hit after hit as well as new and exciting tracks.”

Camper Calling takes place between Friday August 24 and Sunday August 26 at Ragley Hall, near Alcester in South Warwickshire.

Join the calling at a family-friendly music festival

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The ferret rustler who remained defiant to the last

The hollow eyes and unkempt demeanour piqued Martin Kenny’s interest as he leafed through a book of habitual criminals used by Victorian police. The history writer traces the story of George Mullis, whose misdemeanours spanned two decades.

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George Mullis stares back in his police mugshot. County Records Office

The striking image of George Mullis stood out from the moment I turned the page to find his piercing gaze staring back at me from a Victorian  rogues’ gallery entitled the ‘Book of Known Criminals’.

Such low-level criminals have provided material for situational comedies for many years. One of my favourites is the opening sequence of Porridge, which resonates to the closing of a prison door along with a judge pronouncing: “Norman Stanley Fletcher you have pleaded guilty to the charges brought by this court and it is now my duty to pass sentence. You are an habitual criminal who accepts arrest as an occupational hazard and presumably accepts imprisonment in the same casual manner.”

These words could just as easily be applied to George Mullis (alias Trinder/Payne), an unsophisticated yet defiant petty criminal whose mugshot and personal details reside in the neatly-compiled book at Warwick Records Office. Simply from preliminary research, I found a long list of his crimes and appearances in courts in Banbury, Warwick, Leamington, Stratford and Alcester.

Mullis first came to the attention of the police in 1888. On October 20 of that year the 16-year-old shoemaker was charged by Banbury magistrates with stealing a post office account book from his grandmother’s house at Balscote. The teenager received a three-week sentence with hard labour, the start of a life of offending with frequent short spells of detention.

More than a decade later Mullis, now listed as a labourer, was brought before the courts for trespass in pursuit of game and stealing chickens and rabbits. The offences landed him with a cumulative three-month prison sentence with hard labour. After sentencing, Mullis replied, “Thankyou sir.”

However it would be the petty criminal’s theft of a ferrets and a gun at Haselor near Alcester that would earn him a place in the archives. His use of the alias Trinder, listed on his charge sheet, was of little use as an accomplice gave evidence against him. On November 29, 1901 the Stratford Herald reported that the case had been committed for trial on the strength of his partner in crime’s testimony.  At the hearing in January the following year, Mullis expressed his displeasure at his accomplice and being sentenced for a gun he apparently didn’t want to steal. “The man has no right to leave a gun in an open barn like that,” Mullis protested.

Mullis convictions
Rap sheet: Some of George Mullis’s crimes. County Records Office

Following his release six months later Mullis was soon behind bars again, having once more been collared for taking ferrets and rabbits. In October 1906 the Banbury Advertiser reported yet another case involving a ferret where the indignant thief demanded the return of his ill-gotten gains. Unable to resist a humorous spin, the newspaper reports that “the police could not detain the ferret”.

History dating back to the 12th Century can be unearthed at the County Records Office 

Mullis also appeared in the press several times for obscene language, including one occasion when police officers heard the offending words as they walked past his house in Compton Street, Warwick.

At court, Mullis used the defence that he was talking to his dog.

Mullis description
Mullis’s particulars recorded in fountain pen. County Records Office

Mullis’s hapless life of petty crime would come to an end in November 1938 when he fractured his femur after falling down the stairs at his house. On February 25 the following year his death was reported after a 17-week stay at Warwick Hospital. Mullis’s wife would give evidence at the subsequent inquest that the stairs were unsafe at their former home. I often find it interesting to trace the story behind an old photograph and the eventful life of George Mullis gives an insight into crime and punishment in Victorian and Edwardian Warwickshire.

A most respectable arsonist; how Emma Jeffcoat let the maid take the blame 

Mother’s Day goes vegan at poetry-inspiring wrap stop

REVIEW: Eggelicious (E2), 3 Wood Street, Swindon, SN1 4AN

Rating: ★★★★★

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Mother’s Day special. The vegan Poppadom Crunch was added to the menu ahead of the day

Morning prep is underway as I arrive at Swindon’s favourite toasted wrap joint, with ingredients red, green and yellow being gently sliced and heated behind the counter.

Pulling up a stool at the slender counter, I have a front-row view of the open kitchen where owner Ash has full pans of spinach and lamb on the hob. The Asian influence is much in evidence with coriander, dill and ginger among the herbs and spices I can discern.

Eggelicious has the mantra ‘slow food fast’, and it’s this careful prep work that gives the toasted bundles the wholesome pep that have put the name on the map.

E2, so-called because it was the second outlet in the stable, even has its own laminated ode floating around the counter. Written by a loyal customer, the homage praises the pan-Asian food and owners to the hilt. With no shortage of fans, it’s fair to say the independent, family-run business has reached something approaching cult eating status within the borders of Swindon. A street food feel is combined with Ash’s solid knowledge of food science, a combination that appeals to the gym bunnies, workers on the go and footballers who flock through the doors.

Starting life in the former Tented Market, which has since been mothballed awaiting development, the wrap stop expanded to E2 in the heart of the borough’s Old Town and most recently to The Crossing, a food court in the Brunel shopping centre.

The two existing branches stay true to the open kitchen approach, the orders being made from basic ingredients under the customers’ eyes. Innovation has played a part, too. A few days before Mother’s Day, Ash has added two themed wraps, one being a meat option comprising chicken in saffron, orange and tarragon spices.

It’s a tempting-sounding fusion but also an insight into what makes Eggelicious tick.

The former food chemist chose saffron because of its use throughout Europe and the Middle East and to recognise the formative cooking influences of his mother.

Eggelicious- slow food fast 

Keeping an eye on the hob and a couple of brews he readies on the counter, Ash tells me how egg coriander on roti used to be her equivalent of beans on toast.

Unhurried the prep work may be, it only takes minutes to conjure up the Mother’s Day vegan option, the intriguingly-titled Poppadum Crunch.

I take up the option of a light sprinkle of chili over the spinach, potato and crushed poppadom.

Chef Texanita Dias with the wrap
Chef Texanita Dias with the vegan wrap made created by the food stop in Swindon’s Old Town

Based on Ash’s home meals, it’s a barnstorming fusion of perfectly-judged flavours and textures. The soft vegetables and spices complement and enhance each other in the tightly-packed and filling square gracing the counter. Season-round wraps that jump from the menu include a chicken, pea and halloumi affair and my ‘usual’, which combines most or all of spinach, paneer, potato and chickpeas.

Specials chalked up on a blackboard include the Thai lemon, lime and pepper marinated chicken. Customers can also build their own wraps, with fillings such as eggs, masala chickpeas, halloumi, sweet potato mix and chorizo added to meat or fish or combining on their own to make a vegan or vegetarian bundle. Tapas and plated specials give another dimension to the menu.

Vegetarian and vegan options are available in spades and it’s worth noting that Eggelicious was way ahead of the current curve for meat and animal product-free dining. Just ask the former Tented Market crowd.

With its warmly embracing spice, soft crunch and tender potatoes, my wrap is a surprisingly slow eat that leaves me feeling nourished. In fact, I take half back to the office with me for later consumption. It’s another reason why I will remain a regular at what is, for my money, the most vege-licious counter in town.

By Yunzy

Yorkshire cheer warms the hands and spirits on the frosty dales

TRAVEL: Arkengarthdale in the North Yorkshire Dales 

Yorkshire signpost

The biting wind feels like it’s whipping through our bones as we shiver on an icy ridgeline on the North Yorkshire Dales.

Fortunately, the scene of magnificent desolation is only 100 metres from the nearest pub.

Pausing on the snow-dappled moors, the wind chill feels like something we would imagine from a Hollywood treatment of an Everest expedition.

So we’re relieved to tumble through the doors of the Tan Hill Inn, the highest pub in England at 1,732ft above sea level. If it sounds extreme the retreat has a tractor-mounted plough and track vehicle parked outside, while the mulled cider is worth its weight in fermented apples.

Outside the pub Tan Hill
Frosty moors and shifting skies. The scene outside England’s highest pub

Moss

Revellers seeing in 2009 ended up being snowed in for three days, and we kept a beady eye on the conditions outside. On the Yorkshire Moors a friendly welcome is never far away, even when the undulating quilts of moss, grass and snow seem to stretch forever, in every direction.

Walking through winding, tea packet Yorkshire lanes passing over brooks by fields inhabited by the occasional gaggle of sheep, there’s always somewhere to duck in from the cold.

On the first day of our one-night stopover we found no shortage of northern hygge at the Charles Bathurst Inn, an authentic, tasteful and thoughtfully-appointed retreat in winding Arkengarthdale.

Given the snow blizzards intermittently swirling outside and the numbing cold, we made the most of the award-winning Yorkshire hospitality in the barely-stirring parish of Richmond.

Tucked away on the side of a valley, the hostelry is never short of a cheerful crowd making the most of the exceptional food and drink produced in-house on a seasonal basis.

CB Inn cars
Classic cars are at home outside the warm and welcoming Charles Bathurst Inn
CB Outside Closeup
The winding valley in Arkengarthdale is a former lead mining area ideal for walking

Members of the Royal family are known to have wandered in for evening refreshments while out shooting grouse in hunting season, and we found it a princely fit for our break.

Other pursuits within easy reach include mountain biking and tours of the dales, with car and art clubs among the numerous groups gathering at the 18th Century inn.

Having succumbed to our frosty ridgeline walk and a separate foray trying to climb a deceptively tricky escarpment which first appeared about 500 metres from where we were parked, we checked in and planned for more gentle distractions on our second day.

Yorkshire scene
The expansive moorland on the doorstep of the Charles Bathurst Inn

Our exertions on the frosty moors were replenished at a candle-lit corner table adorned with snowdrops where I dined on a superlative seabass fillet, the seared steaks crossed over a bed of ocean-fresh seafood with sundried tomato and tagliatelle and lemon oil.

My partner had a slow-braised, rolled belly of pork, accompanied by a finely-mashed bubble and squeak cake and red cabbage. We’d chosen a nibbles board for our starter, the bread and hummus, both made on the premises, accompanied by marinated green and black olives, and it stayed on as a side.

A sticky toffee pudding with custard proved a knockout finale, the spongy brown square on my white plate being smothered in a rich and deeply embracing sauce.

cheese

Brim full of rustic character, the guest house, which is known as the CB Inn to locals, has a coveted Rosette and four silver stars from the AA for its excellent standards.

In the morning, we awoke to bird song in the fields outside one of our windows and breakfasted on divine Wensleydale scrambled eggs wrapped in smoked salmon.

Suitably thawed, we packed in a quick walk along the empty lane outside in what was once a lead mining area, batting up the moss embankments to enjoy the views.

Knockout sticky toffee
A knockout sticky toffee pudding capped a fine meal at the Inn

Nature featured on our second stop as we took a short drive to go red squirrel spotting at Snaizeholme, just outside the market town of Hawes in the Yorkshire Dales National Park.

With only around 15,000 of the creatures left in England, the woodland sanctuary is one of the few places they can be seen going about their lives in the wild.

A proper Yorkshire welcome at the Charles Bathurst Inn 

The refuge only came out by chance more than 40 years ago when a family who took over a farm noticed the reds were attracted to Christmas trees they had planted.

Snaizeholme is now one of 14 such refuges in northern England, regarded as the ‘front line’ between the survivors and grey squirrels, which measure up twice as large.

Before heading south, we passed under the battlements of Barnard Castle, a rising fortress that made an imposing scene above the fast-flowing River Tees.

Taking its name from its 12th Century founder, Bernard de Balliol, the fortifications are in a delightful market town with no end of quirky tea shops and pubs.

Barnard Castle GV
Barnard Castle is an imposing presence overlooking the Tees Gorge

The visitor attraction was closed on the Monday we visited but we got a good impression of the strategic position as we strolled on a pathway underneath.

A sensory garden of scented plants and tactile objects, views over the Tees Gorge and Richard III’s boar emblem carved above the inner ward are among the reasons we will return.

Reluctantly setting TomTom for home, we reflect on a slice of England that changes drastically with the seasons. Icy conditions will soon make way for the kind of sun-blessed scenes that were opened up to the nation through the overhead television shots of the 2014 Tour De France’s ‘grand depart’ in Yorkshire. Whether rain, shine or icy pub walk, we’ll be back on the trail soon.

By Yunzy

A most respectable arsonist; how Emma Jeffcoat let the maid take the blame.

An unlikely-looking arsonist featured in an Edwardian archive of known criminals piqued the interest of history writer Martin Kenny. Through his research, he pieced together a story involving a maid being framed for setting fire to bed sheets in a reverend’s house. All the while, the real culprit maintained an air of respectability.

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Sometimes we incorrectly judge people based on first impressions.

Sitting in the reading room of the Warwick Records Office everything seemed to fall into place as I pieced together the evidence. Glancing at the book of ‘known criminals’ the face of Emma Jeffcoat stood out from the other images on the page.

Wearing a boater hat and Edwardian blouse, Jeffcoat looked distracted with a perplexed yet slightly pensive expression. Underneath her photograph was the word ARSON and the date of her conviction on 20th July, 1906. Having written some articles on the suffragette movement, I was aware of a campaign that involved setting fire to buildings which commenced in the spring of 1906. I had therefore formed an opinion based on first impressions which would prove to be totally inaccurate.

However, the truth was more amazing than any work of fiction.

Checking the microfiche records of Assizes trials I was able to establish that Jeffcoat was sentenced to 12 months imprisonment with hard labour for “feloniously setting fire to certain articles of furniture being in the dwelling house of John Halifax Bates”.

Edward VII
The pardon was signed by King Edward VII after the truth emerged. Pic: royal.uk

The crime was committed on 18th June, 1906 at Kenilworth with court proceedings being held at Milverton Petty Sessions. Using the database of Leamington Courier I was able to establish the events that led to the imprisonment of Jeffcoat.

The story starts in 1905 when a young housemaid named Agnes Wass was convicted of setting bed clothing on fire whilst in the service of the Reverend Frederick Sadgrove of Winston Rectory near Darlington. On the evidence of another member of house staff, who happened to be Emma Jeffcoat, the judge found Agnes guilty of committing wilful damage not exceeding £5. However, the real culprit would only be discovered when the reverend’s daughter, Miss Sadgrove, alerted police to the miscarriage of justice having doubts about the conviction the following year.

Having heard about a similar fire at Kenilworth where Jeffcoat was now in the service of Mr Bates of White Thorn House, Miss Sadgrove made the journey to Warwick to clear the name of Agnes Wass. Following the intervention of the Reverend’s daughter, a formal pardon was issued to Wass signed by the King and countersigned by the Home Secretary Herbert Gladstone.

Over a century later is it possible to provide further information about the individuals and families involved using census returns. In the 1891 census Agnes is listed as a six- year-old and is being cared for by her grandparents. By the 1901 census she is identified as a 15-year-old servant at Stockton on Tees near Durham. In the 1901 census Jeffcoat is a nurse at Warneford Hospital in Leamington and is living at Covent Gardens in the town with her husband Tom and his parents also named as Emma and Tom. John and Eleanor Bates are living at White Thorn in Kenilworth in both the 1901 and 1911 census with their household including domestic staff. However in 1915 tragedy would strike the family with the death of  their son in the First World War. Lieutenant Harold Bates was killed in action at Nord in France and is commemorated on the First World War memorial in Abbey Fields in Kenilworth.

The introduction of new web based ancestry sites has undoubtedly increased the access to archive material and given new opportunities for research.

However, there is one factor that remains unchanged when reading the book of known criminals and that is judgement. Over a century ago Agnes Wass suffered being convicted of a crime she did not commit based on the judgement of a court and the word of an unreliable witness. When studying archive material it can be difficult to judge where your research will lead.

 

Meat gets the chop as vegan green shoots delight the senses

 

waga menu crop

REVIEW: Wagamama, 95 Parade, Leamington Spa, CV32 4AY

Rating: ★★★★★

In surroundings of byegone grandeur, Wagamama is making a bold pitch for a new wave of diners who like their animals still roaming the earth.
Navigating the timber-panelled revolving doors and resisting the pull of a cacophonous square bar in the lobby, we perched on a bench under an encased  chandelier.
The Japanese-inspired restaurant chain’s first ever dedicated vegan and vegetarian menu is all  green shoots, laid out without the need for animal ingredients or capital letters.
Casting eyes down under the table-top strip lighting, we took time to choose from the award-winning quest to prove that meat and animal products are so last year.
We lingered only because the likes of bang bang wok-fried cauliflower, shichimi-coated silken tofu and rice noodles garnished with pickled ginger sprang off the card.
Brown beans and lentils used to sell from upright plastic tubs at The Other Branch bookshop around the corner, an alternative retailer in Cold War times when vegan was a fairly radical concept.
What arrived at our table was a feast for the senses.
I plunged chopsticks into a steaming yasai itame, a rustled oriental market place of spongy, velvety tofu, field-green spring onion leaves, stir-fried beansprouts, bok choi, peppers, mushroom and chilli.
Sunken tentacles of pale rice noodles added consistency to the pot.
A deceptively thin green coconut and lemongrass soup had a deeply embracing, peppery afterglow that had me wading in with the wooden soup ladel long after the sticks had passed their usefulness.
Main
Steaming delights: The vegan yasai itame was a rustled marvel
My partner set her taste buds to Lonely Planet mode to explore the yasai samla curry, a freshly-fired blend of earthy yellow lemongrass and coconut encompassing hunks of silky tofu and saggy baby red tomatoes. Peppers and shittake mushrooms were notable more by taste in the dish, which came with a separate serving of white rice.
Chopping boards must take a hammering in the restaurant, but every component in the mains retained its zip amid a holistic whole.
The regularly updated menu waves sayonara to the days of the (v) or (vg) denoting the few alternatives to the meaty headliners.

Curry
The yasai samla curry is another of the dishes on the new vegan menu
Sides of steamed edamame beans with chilli garlic salt and vegetable steamed dumplings filled with the customary dipping sauce added to our burgeoning hotchpotch.
There was just about room for an electric-orange coloured raw juice begging a wistful swirl and a bitty blueberry spice.

Once we’d mixed and matched tender noodles, chopped veg and delicate tofu, meat was a distant memory, as were eggs, dairy products and sundry other animal-derived ingredients.

Still piqued after the plentiful servings, we gave the desserts a try.
Straying onto the vegetarian menu, we sweetened the meal with a banana katsu, a gently deteriorating piece of fruit in crispy panko breadcrumbs, sesame seeds and a chilli toffee and ginger sauce.
In the end, however, it was a vegan treat that won home.
Three carnation pink dollops of guava and passion fruit sorbet with fresh mint made a cleansing and soft-hitting end to the vegan induction.
More about Wagamama here
By Yunzy