IF YOU visit Woking’s Maybury Centre on Tuesday mornings, you will have found a group of elderly Nepalese women working together to create lanterns using newspapers and recycled paper. Guided by their very enthusiastic art teacher Mrs Maria Lima, the ladies have been making traditional Nepalese basket ‘Doko’ shaped lanterns for Woking’s annual Diwali celebration to be held on 31 October.

Sara, Darsh, Arjun, Arjun will be performing some Bollywood dance steps

Diwali, the Hindu festival of lights which celebrates the victory of good over evil, is an important festival for the people of Indian and Nepali origin. Woking’s Diwali event is one that is widely celebrated and not just by those who believe in the festival’s cultural or religious significance, it is an evening which brings the town’s diverse community together.

The programme starts with a lantern procession near the council office at 6pm and culminates around 7.30pm at the HG Wells centre where a two-hour cultural programme follows. Woking residents representing at least five local community groups including the Surrey Hindu Cultural Association, the Sayapatri Nepalese Association, Woking Malayalee Association, Woking Telugu Association and Surrey Tamils are participating in this year’s show.

(Front to back) Jayshree, Purna, Usha Rani and Vidhya

Local school children and scouts and guides groups are usually involved in lantern making but there will be little or no representation from these as this year’s event is coinciding with Halloween and half term holidays. That said, the parade will be complete with battery operated lanterns provided by the council’s art and culture department, handmade lanterns by Nepalese women, York Road Housing Project and others.

“Woking Diwali celebration supported by the Woking Borough Council is unique because it doesn’t just involve people who have faith (in the festival),” says 73-year-old Rajendra Chhetri, who has been involved in organising the festival since its early days.

Children and grownups from local families have been preparing for weeks to put on their best performances. Despite their busy school and after-school schedule, groups of five to seven-year-old girls and boys have been meeting for practice during evenings and weekends taught by enthusiastic mums who are motivated to keep their children connected to their culture.

Dance instructor Kavita with Khyati, Anika, Naina, Lakki, Aabha, Anaya, Asmi, Sathvika, Simar, Rishita

One such mum is Pallavi Baldawa Bhutada who has taken up the task of teaching Bollywood steps to a group of children (mostly boys). “Boys are mostly very active, and it is quite challenging to keep them focused on practicing dance steps over the weeks. Catchy Bollywood numbers make my job half done. Seeing them perform with so much joy gives me immense pleasure and motivation for next year too,” she said.

Another group of young mothers has been meeting at weekends to coordinate their steps for a fusion of classical and catchy Bollywood numbers. At the town centre, children from Goldsworth Primary School will also be enacting the story of Ramayana through a song and dance sequence.  Even as the weeks get busy with practice and preparation, children and their mums seem to love the celebration as it offers them a chance to get together.

For more information about the parade, the free to attend after party at HG Wells centre and to see photos from previous celebrations, please visit

For more Dawali content and pictures, see the 24 October edition of the News & Mail

A WOOD recycling charity that also gives skills to people who are struggling to find a job has been opened in Woking.

The Useful Wood Company opened its doors this week at the former Jobcentre premises in Goldsworth Road.

Tony Hewat, chairman of the Useful Wood Company board of trustees, left, and George Varney, the operations manager

It is entirely staffed by volunteers with supervisors and helpers, including some nominated by organisations such as the York Road Project. They include the long-term unemployed, people with mental health problems, the homeless and ex-offenders.

The volunteers will collect unwanted wood from building sites and sort them into material that can be turned into items for sale, with the rest becoming firewood or being pulped for biomass.

“The idea is to stop wood waste going into landfill and reducing CO2 emissions and at the same time we will help people on the margins who need to reintegrate into the society and the workplace,” said operations manager George Varney.

The wood that can be used will be turned into items such as wine racks, planters and outdoor tables and benches.

For more information, visit, email or call 07432 278281.

For the full story get the 5 September edition of the News & Mail

THOUSANDS of visitors enjoyed three days of free culinary capers and one red-hot chilli showdown as part of Woking Food and Drink Festival 2019.

Foodies from across the region turned out in vast numbers to enjoy a large helping of celebrity and local chef demos, expert talks, pop-up dining experiences and a fantastic assortment of food and drink stalls, all served with a side of street entertainment and live music.

The French Cainté duo preparing food

Located in Jubilee Square, the professional demo theatre hosted a smorgasbord of top culinary experts, including Sabrina Ghayour, TV presenter and author; Martha Collison, Great British Bake Off quarter finalist and food writer; Laurence Henry, MasterChef: The Professionals 2018 winner; and Chris Bavin, co-presenter of BBC’s Eat Well for Less.

A welcoming Wannat from the Happy Hungry Buddha offers a sample

As well as the alluring pull of the Michelin star heavyweights and celebrity chefs, the Hot Pods chilli eating competition drew the crowds, with three finalists making it through to the tenth and final round, eating the world’s hottest chilli (the Carolina Reaper), before a tie breaker of six random chillies.

Cllr Colin Kemp, Woking Borough Council’s portfolio holder for leisure and culture, said: “It was fantastic to see Woking town centre buzzing with visitors of all ages enjoying the chef demos, free activities and talks, street entertainment and live music, as well as the selection of cuisine available from across the world.

For the full story and special picture feature, get the 5 September edition of the News & Mail

THE well-manicured flower beds and vegetable plots run by Derry’s Field Allotment was once again open to the public last Saturday for the association’s open day.

Tony Harding, chairman of Derry’s Field Allotment Association

The annual event is as an opportunity for people to see what can be grown on the 117 plots at the Coniston Road site in Old Woking which currently has 160 members, and to raise money for charity.

Chairman Tony Harding said: “The weather was on our side and we raised around £700 by the end of the day. We’ve been doing the open day for about 20 years now and it’s as much about the community as putting the allotment on show.”

For the full story and picture spread, see the 29 August edition of the News & Mail

GET up close to the Pirbright Cricket Club clock tower that sits on top of its pavilion, and you may be able to make out the letters “JBA” and “ESA”.

These are the initials of club chairman Peter Austin’s parents, a fitting tribute for the service they gave their country during the Second World War.

The pavilion’s clock tower bears the initials of club chairman Austin’s parents

Austin’s father John was a bomber pilot in a secret squadron, and in the latter part of the war dropped agents into occupied France.

The clock tower will be preserved as Austin and club president Derek Bytheway now lead plans to pull down the existing pavilion and create a bigger, modern facility that they hope will re-energise the local sporting community.

It needs it. Bisley and Lightwater are among neighbouring cricket clubs to have folded in recent years – and with Bytheway stating that member numbers have decreased by a third in the last 10 years, it’s easy to see why.

Pirbright’s Peter Austin (left) and Derek Bytheway

“We’re fighting a battle constantly to make sure we’ve got enough players. However, we’ve got to remain optimistic, because we’ve got a great set-up here,” said Bytheway.

“We haven’t historically had the infrastructure – there are two football clubs in Pirbright that play outside the village because facilities haven’t been good enough – but we’re hoping that the youth programme that we’re introducing for cricket will be fully operational at the beginning of next season (bringing in more players).”

In conjunction with these efforts – the club are also running an inaugural colts event on the 27-28 August – the pavilion will be a centrepiece for daily life in Pirbright, as Bytheway explained. “It’ll be the hub of the community and available to all Pirbrighters,” he said.

“There’ll be a cafe, which will be a great help for the people locally. 500 kids come to school in Pirbright every day, and when the children are dropped off, the mums have got nowhere to go to have a coffee. Hopefully they’ll come in here. I would love to see it open seven days a week, nine hours a day.”

For the full story, see the 27 June edition of the News & Mail

PARK Road in Woking held their annual street party on Sunday 2 June with a record attendance of about 120. The weather was kinder than last year’s sweltering heat, and a plant sale raised £200 for Woking Hospice.

The street party – the Big Lunch – was an idea begun in 2009 by the Eden Project. The aim is to get as many people as possible to have lunch with their neighbours once a year.

Residents of Park Road smile politely as their lunch is interrupted by a Woking News & Mail photographer

It grew out of research that showed people were increasingly feeling isolated from their neighbours, and that communities were not developing as they did in the past.

Park Road started their street party in 2009 and this was its eleventh continuous year, with party-goers made up of family and friends, and neighbours from Ivy Lane and Sylvan Close. New residents were welcomed, including a family from the USA, and goodbyes said to those moving on.

After a wonderful barbecue lunch with fantastic salads and puddings prepared by the residents, there was just time to make space for tea and cakes as the ice cream van arrived!

THE future of the Woking & Sam Beare Hospices is being put at risk from a lack of understanding about its value and that it is a charity reliant on fundraising activities and its 18 shops, the organisation has said.

The comment came after research into the views of local residents.

Woking and Sam Beare Hospices CEO Jayne Cooper

Half of 627 people questioned in the boroughs and areas covered by the hospice did not know that it is a charity and more than a third said they had no idea how it was funded.  

The hospice covers Woking, Surrey Heath, north Guildford, Spelthorne, Runnymede, and West Elmbridge but 31% of those surveyed thought that it cared only for people in Woking.

Jayne Cooper, CEO of Woking & Sam Beare Hospices, said: “There was overwhelming surprise about the volume of services that we provide and a lack of understanding that we care for the whole family and not just the person who is unwell. We also learnt that a large majority where shocked to hear that over 70% of our specialist care is delivered in patient own homes.”

Jayne was speaking in the run-up to the launch of the hospice’s 2019 appeal, which coincides with Dying Matters Week, which began on Monday and runs until Monday 20 May.

For more information,

For the full story get the 16 May edition of the New & Mail

DRESS up for the 80s disco theme and “Let’s get physical” for Woking & Sam Beare Hospices’ Midnight Walk at 10pm on Friday 21 June.

But this eight-mile challenge for ladies is about more than just the way the charity works to care for its patients’ physical needs – it also enables the hospice’s staff and volunteers to ensure that many other important aspects of their wellbeing are met too.

EVERY STEP YOU TAKE – Being part of Woking & Sam Beare Hospices’ Midnight Walk on June 21 helps to raise vital funds for the charity. This year the walk has an 80s disco theme.

Funds raised by walkers help the charity’s counsellors to listen to patients and also to their family and carers, helping to explore and alleviate their worries.

Event sponsorship can directly help the hospice’s social worker Caroline Hodgson to offer advice on often complicated issues that may be concerning patients and their families, such as benefits and finances, as well as arranging important experiences.

Caroline said: “We’ve organised two weddings, one vow renewal and arranged for a patient to have a virtual reality experience.  We will always try to go the extra mile, that’s what hospice care is about.

“If I can help a patient achieve their dreams, plan for the future, or be there for them at the end, then I’ve done my job.”

At a time when everything can feel confusing and overwhelming, the reassurance given by the CoSI team in people’s own homes overnight, matched with their nursing expertise, can reduce any stress caused by feeling responsible for a loved one’s medical needs, and enable families to be just that – family, not carers.

To support all these elements of the hospice’s care through your physical challenge, please register online for £15. Visit  Female walkers must be aged 11 and upwards.

The hospice would also welcome men and ladies as volunteers to help with marshalling or indoor duties on the walk. There are further volunteering opportunities throughout the year within Woking & Sam Beare Hospices.

Please contact Rachelle Barnett on 01483 742683 or to find out more about joining the support team.

For the full story get the 9 May edition of the News & Mail

WOKING Athletic Club long-distance runner Stephen Blake flew the flag for the borough at the Virgin Money London Marathon.

A victorious and exhausted Stephen Blake after crossing the finish line of this year’s London Marathon

Blake, 31, ran the world-famous endurance race in a personal best time of 2:28.13 hours to finish in an impressed 56th place out of more than 40,000 competitors.

Kenya’s Eliud Kipchoge ran the second fastest marathon in history (2:2.38 hours) to win the prestigious event for a fourth time. Britain’s Mo Farah finished fifth.

Blake improved hugely on his time of 2:39.17 recorded at the 2018 London Marathon, which saw him finish in 139th place.

AN ANIMAL charity volunteer is seeking 100 people and their dogs to join a fundraising walk as part of her 100th birthday celebrations.

Sally Field has been spending much of her spare time at the Chobham RSPCA centre for 45 years.

Sally Field with Chico the chihuahua-cross

She is a regular dog walker and helps run fundraising events at Millbrook in Guildford Road.

To help mark becoming a centenarian last December, she hopes at least 100 dog owners and their pets will join her event on Saturday 1 June.

“We will be asking the dog walkers who take part for a donation and the money raised will go towards the work that Millbrook does,” said Sally, who lives in Addlestone,

“Spectators are also welcome to come along and give some money and enjoy some refreshments and an ice cream van will be there.”

Sally, who was a cook at Chertsey Fire Station for 23½ years, drives herself to Chobham for her two regular volunteering days each week.

She made bacon rolls and served snacks for a car boot sale at Millbrook last Saturday and has helped run the centre’s annual gala for many years.

Sally has rehomed seven dogs from the RSPCA and her latest pet is a 16-year-old Jack Russell called Roseanna.

Millbrook staff arranged a surprise 100th birthday party for Sally at Hare Hill Social Club in Addlestone, where guests donated a total of £472 to the centre.

The 100-dog walk takes place in the centre grounds between 11am and 2pm. Entry forms can be collected from the Millbrook reception or requested by emailing or calling 0300 123 0740.