Monday, 28 April 2014

£544.20 to help build a school in Kenya

Joe Miller-Howes is going to Kenya in July this year to help build a primary school at an orphanage (the Ruiru Rehabilitation Centre) near Nairobi. This will make a big difference to the children as the youngest and most vulnerable students will not have to face a long walk, and the very real risk of death, along the dangerous Thika Highway in order to get to school.

Over the next 3 years Bloxham School will raise over £63,000 to fund this project - on Friday 4th April a fabulous group of people enjoyed a Pollicott Belles style Kenyan School Dinner and helped Joe to raise a massive £544.20 toward that target. Thank you to everyone who supported this evening so incredibly generously - every penny donated has been sent to Bloxham school and every penny they raise is going directly the project. 
Belles in the kitchen 
Dinner Lady Belles and Joe
When Lucinda current head of Wilberforce House met Richard Bates a former head of the same house!
Raffle ticket folding expertise gets to work
Marking the Kenya quiz - not surprisingly the former residents of Ruiru (David and Sue Chetham) helped their team to the no. 1 prize!
Our beautiful Belle Annalise, and a drop in special guest, made it impossible for anyone to leave without first giving generously to the cause.
Joe has now raised almost £650 so has fulfilled his commitment to raise a minimum £500 for the project and he can now focus on his A2 exams before getting stuck in to working alongside the Ruiru builders this Summer. The Pollicott Belles will continue to support the project and will post updates as fundraising progresses and the journey to Ruiru progresses and the adventure unfolds

Friday, 21 March 2014

We can't change the world but we can change a child's life!

Joe Miller-Howes will be travelling to Nairobi in July this year and we are supporting the fundraising efforts for the school he will be helping to build. 

Here’s Joe’s explanation of the project:

The project is on the outskirts of Nairobi in an area called Ruiru and we will be helping an orphanage, The Ruiru Rehabilitation Centre (RRC), build a two storey nine classroom school on an adjacent plot of land to be used by the children in the orphanage as well as the locals from the surrounding area. The need for the school is great as children have to walk up to four hours every day to and from school along a 6 lane newly built highway; there have been fatalities of young children over the past two years.

Our plan is simple; raise £63,000 to allow the school to be built (in stages), and send a group of 18 pupils (from my school) and 4 members of staff each year from 2014 to help at the school for 3 weeks and then, once the project is self-sustaining (through a small payment from the local children who will use the school) we then withdraw our support as our part of the project will be complete. When successful we may then look to implement the same blueprint at another site in another part of Kenya.

Tonight Andy and Sian are braving a quiz battling our knowledge vs. that of intellects, academics and worldly wise folk at Joe's school BUT then on 4th April 2014 The Pollicott Belles will do what they do best and pull out all the stops to host a Kenyan School Dinner in Ashendon. 

Please let a Belle know if you are able to join us for this (dress accordingly) night out in what was our old schoolroom: Ashendon Village Hall. 

Watch this space for more about Ruiru in our next blog. 

Friday, 30 August 2013

Droving Belles - Part 1

On Friday 28th September 2012 we set off to walk in the footsteps of the Drovers who helped to shape the rural landscape we enjoy today.

Over three days we walked the Drover's routes and the ancient green lanes from Faringdon (South of Oxford) to Touchbridge (Brill).

The route followed the map below. Covering a distance of just over 30 miles through fields and woods, along, paths, tracks, rivers and roads. From Faringdon to Oxford we were following the Drover's route to and from Southampton docks. After Oxford it was the London route and took in commons where animals were rested a while before their final drive to market. Throughout we enjoyed spotting evidence of the past users of these ancient routes. This we plan to share over a series of short blogs to follow this.

Our Route

Our journey began from Pollicott in Oli, Sian's beloved, 34 year old yellow, VW campervan who was then manoeuvered around Oxfordshire as part of the logistical back up provided by our ever supportive Pollicott Boys - Andy, Joe and Steve.

On Friday we tramped to Abingdon where Andy and Joe met us with the van which we then drove to Oxford for a noisy night at the local Caravan Club site. On Sunday we returned to Abingdon and made it all the way to Horton cum Studley where the van had been left for us by Andy, Joe and Steve. We should have returned to the camp site in Oxford but (as we were so close to home) we succumbed to the allure of our own beds and returned to Horton Cum Studley to finish our walk on Sunday morning on which we were joined by Steve and Vicky. 

Like all Belles outings it was an adventure and we made the most of the precious time we spent together. We will tell all day by day in parts 2-4 of Droving Belles and hope that you will be able to enjoy our journey almost as much as we did.  

Sunday, 28 October 2012

Tequila Fundrise!

Once again The Pollicott Belles convinced Andy Dale, (Landlord of Gatehangers Inn, Ashendon) that it was a good idea to hand over his pub to our care for one night only - and so he did and so there was...Mexican Night hosted by The Pollicott Belles.

40 brilliant guests filled the bar and were treated to Annalise's nacho nibbles with a brave few starting the evening as they intended to go on with Vicky's tequila shots.

Build your Own Taco's by Sian kept our guests busy while in the kitchen the heat was on to prepare and serve the magnificent main: Alex's (con Steve) chilli with rice and tortilla and various alternatives (veggie by Vicky, no chilli etc.). As some determinedly battled through their massively generous chilli portions others enjoyed a quick round of Pin the Tail on the Donkey. With Freddy Holbrook in charge of tail sales this proved to be a quick cash generator.

As plates were cleared everyone enthusiastically joined in the Mexican Snap game and took the opportunity to sit with someone different as we served Vicky's fabulous puddings: a choice of chocolate brulee (wow) or grilled fruit kebabs with honey.
The final flourish came with the PiƱata (containing the after dinner treats!). Now this was an eye opener as ordinarily kind and gentle guests turned into donkey bashers. Just look at the determination on their faces:

Throughout the evening a Mexican picture quiz was carefully pondered over by all - it was quite hard to find 25 questions and even harder to answer them but the Dutch contingent managed an impressive 14 points to scoop the top prize - a supremely naf Mexican Bell.

The raffle and more tequila shots continued to keep the funds rolling in for Florence Nightingale Hospice and with everyone being invited to donate an amount they felt reflected the value of their meal and the evening we raised a massive total of:

The Belles thoroughly enjoyed putting the evening together and we have had some lovely feedback but it was of course not wholly down to us. Firstly we say a huge thanks to all our guests for throwing themselves into the spirit of the night. Next we express our gratitude (and respect!) to Andy Dale for the loan of his livlihood and for donating the wine. Also thanks to Gill Walker for her unstinting help throughout the night and into the next day. Last (and of course not least) thanks to our boys for their moral support through our pre-planning sessions and for all their hard work on the night: Andy, Roger and Steve you are top gringos!

Roger and Andy the Bar Boys
Steve the Chef

Gill (with Alex) our behind the scenes rock (as well as chief raffle sales girl extraordinaire)

We now look forward to telling you all (in the next few blogs) about how our challenge walk went.

Monday, 24 September 2012

Clickety Click, Kerching, Kerching

On Friday 14th September Ashendon and surrounding villages (and a mighty fine couple from down Wiltshire way) made an impressive turn out for Belles Bingo night and helped us to raise an equally impressive £254.40p for Florence Nightingale Hospice.

Despite technical challenges Andy Dale ably called the numbers, checked the winners and kept the six games in line. We have to say Andy you have really got to grips with the fat ladies and little ducks, the Brighton Line and the blind things. We declare you the Belles top caller.

With wins for a first line and full house, a bonus second line on the final game and a well stocked raffle prize table we came close to declaring 'everyone a winner'.

We must thank Pelham Sparks of Westcott Club for lending us his number selection machine and for donating a supply of mighty fine bingo pens. The latter added to the evening in so many ways - we sold them, they added professionalism, Imo found them useful for decorating her bingo card and later in the evening we discovered they could be used for face decoration. Oh and they are indelible!

Andy sporting an indelible beard and dots.
With just over £400 in the fundraising bag we do, of course, feel more than obliged to complete the challenge. So on Friday 28th September Alex, Annalise and Sian will set off for three days to follow in the drovers footsteps from Faringdon to Oxford and Oxford to Brill.

Thanks to everyone who has supported us so far. To sponsor us on our walk please go to and please look out for details of our final fundraiser of the season which will be held on 19th October 2012 (put it in the diary - it's not to be missed!).

Wednesday, 19 September 2012

Beware of the Cows

When I heard Vicky wasn’t going to be available this year for The Pollicott Belles I kind of hinted to mum (Alex) that I’d be happy to step in of they needed someone else to make up the numbers. For two years I’d heard about tea and cakes, cups of coffee, and ice cream – it all sounded OK to me so I was pretty pleased when I was told I could join in for this years sponsored walk.

We set off from Pollicott at eight thirty on Sunday morning to walk down to Quainton to meet some other people who were doing an even bigger walk. An interesting experience what with cows that followed us through the fields and the road – this was the road where mum had her accident last year and this was the first time we’d been down there since then.

I thought maybe it would help to shoo cows away but well noticed by Alex and Sian it did look like I was praying to them – especially it being Sunday as well.

We stopped for a quick chat with some local residents safely knowing there were no cars or cows in sight.

When we reached Quainton we realised we had missed the Ashendon walkers so we sat down with an ice lolly and a refreshing drink to look at the map and plan our route home. Nearby there was a rather interesting take on violin playing from a near by house. This was what I was expecting – ice cream, drinks, and music.

On route home we came across a field with a rather large herd of younger horses. Working at The Horse Trust and loving horses as much as I do it became my job to guard Sian and Alex from them as they herded towards us in a rather excitable fashion. The Belles knew I would come in useful eventually.

Getting closer to home we ran out of map to guide us home, Sian was doing well to direct us back but mum was convinced she had hidden some directions in her bum bag.

We met a very friendly farmer who decided that maybe we looked a little lost and very reassuringly mentioned that the field we had just walked through just last week had a bull in it – well dodged I think from some of the reactions in the earlier fields.

Once decided that we already knew where we were going and the nice farmer had just told us what we already knew, I had my first piece of girlie advice from Sian. She happened to mention that when dealing with men you should act like you know nothing when really you know it all.

Taking a slight detour near the end of the walk as we had a little trouble finding the exit to the field we decided to cut the walk a little short and Andy met us at the end to give us a lift back home.

8.30 – 1.30, 5 hours for a 12 ½ mile walk. Not bad I think especially as we had to be all washed fresh and looking funky as we had a date with Lady Gaga at Twickenham rugby stadium at 7.

Sian and I looked particularly funky as we rocked the night away dancing along to the music and had a great time. Mum and Andy looking not so funky I think had a little snooze waiting for Gaga to arrive.

Was an absolutely great day and really looking forward to doing our walk later this month.


Wednesday, 12 September 2012

A Warm Welcome at Florence Nightingale Hospice

And warm in every sense of the word. It was a beautiful late summers day when I headed over to Stoke Mandeville last Wednesday to meet Lindsey Fealey from FNH and the warmth of the day was easily matched by the warmth of the welcome I received from such lovely, caring, people.

With both Annalise and Vicky committed to work and Sian being dragged off at the last minute to a client meeting, I was admittedly a tad nervous about taking this initial introduction on my own, but Lindsey had me at ease within seconds.

As I entered the hospice at Stoke Mandeville I was immediately struck by the commitment and passion behind the work that goes on here, these are people who truly believe in what they do….and it shows.

The hospice itself is an incredible facility offering both ‘day’ and ‘residential’ care for the people who have come to rely on it so much. There is a great range of activities on offer including things like arts & crafts, hairdressing, and head massage, the hospice clearly goes to considerable lengths to make sure every day has something for everyone.

The memory that lasts in my mind is what I’d like to think of as a ‘secret garden’, a truly remarkable part of the facility. Somewhere at the heart of the hospice, surrounded by residential and care rooms, and the hectic world of Stoke Mandeville Hospital just a few steps outside, sits a garden full of the most vibrant colours. Open to the sky, with plants and hanging baskets surrounding you, the silence is only to be broken by the soothing sound of the water feature. This is a place where it is easy to forget why FNH exists, I couldn’t help feeling this was a very special place for so many people.

As my visit neared it’s end I was surprised to find that, what seemed like twenty minutes, had indeed been close to two hours – a truly remarkable facility that clearly means so much to so many people. As Lindsey handed me the FNH ‘T’ shirts for The Belles sponsored walk I knew we would be proud to wear them, to put something back into such a worthy cause and for our friend John Walker who cannot be with us.

Love and thanks,

Alex     x

                              The Belles in our new Florence Nightingale Hospice attire